Mark Ford’s latest book, Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner, was published in October. He teaches in the English Department at University College London.
 (December 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

Why Dylan Deserves It

Patti Smith and Bob Dylan at the Bitter End on the night they first met, New York City, June 1975
In her interview for No Direction Home (2005), Martin Scorsese’s brilliant three- and-a-half-hour documentary about Bob Dylan, Joan Baez suggested there is something in Dylan’s music that goes “to the core of people”; there are those, she acknowledges, who are simply “not interested—but if you’re interested, he goes way, way …

Derek Walcott: ‘What the Twilight Says’

Derek Walcott, St. Lucia, 1994; photograph by Inge Morath

The Poetry of Derek Walcott, 1948–2013

selected by Glyn Maxwell
The first poem in this substantial selection of the work of the St. Lucia–born poet Derek Walcott was written when he was only eighteen. It initially appeared in a privately printed volume entitled 25 Poems (1949), a self-publishing venture subsidized by Walcott’s widowed mother (who worked as a seamstress and …

Pound: Genius, Confucian, Fascist & Crazy

Ezra Pound, Vienna, 1928; photograph by Bill Brandt

Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Volume II: The Epic Years, 1921–1939

by A. David Moody
Ezra Pound’s only meeting with his great hero Benito Mussolini took place at 5:30 on the evening of Monday, January 30, 1933. Mussolini’s imposing “office” was the vast Sala del Mappamondo (sixty feet long, forty feet wide, forty feet high) on the first floor of the Palazzo di Venezia in …

Cool, Clinical, and Outrageous

X-ray, Tazz, Algeria

Leaving the Sea

by Ben Marcus
Unless they are subscribers to Harper’s or The New Yorker, admirers of the experimental fiction of Ben Marcus are likely to find themselves somewhat baffled by the four stories that make up the first section of Leaving the Sea—although not, perhaps, as baffled as the uninitiated reader who picked up …

Is Humbert Humbert Jewish?

Vladimir Nabokov, right, with his cousin the composer Nicolas Nabokov, Montreux, Switzerland, 1975

The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov

by Andrea Pitzer

The Tragedy of Mister Morn

by Vladimir Nabokov, translated from the Russian by Thomas Karshan and Anastasia Tolstoy
Nabokov’s conception of the artist as quasi-divine inventor means that—as is the case with one of his great heroes, James Joyce—critics tend to find themselves in the role of enchanted hunters looking for clues and connections, spotting recondite allusions, praising the novels’ elaborate artistry, or elucidating labyrinthine patterns. It would take a bold critic to read such a dazzling, seemingly omniscient, and utterly self-conscious oeuvre as depicting the bars of Nabokov’s own cage. Andrea Pitzer doesn’t, perhaps, go quite that far, but she does invite us to step back a little and ponder the oddness of the relationship Nabokov’s writings create between the fictive and the historical.

Shameless and All-Forgiving Joe

Joe Brainard: ‘If Nancy Was André Breton at Eighteen Months,’ 1972; from The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard, published by Siglio in 2008

The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard

edited by Ron Padgett, with an introduction by Paul Auster
“If I’m as normal as I think I am,” Joe Brainard reflected in one of his “29 Mini-Essays” from the mid-Seventies, “we’re all a bunch of weirdos.” Painter, cartoonist, collagist extraordinaire, author of the brilliantly original I Remember, Brainard was also the master of the faux-naif aphorism, the seemingly goofy …

‘And the Silken Girls Bringing Sherbet’

T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, 1920s

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898–1922

edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume 2: 1923–1925

edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton
“It often seems to me very bizarre,” T.S. Eliot wrote, at the age of thirty-seven, to his older brother Henry, “that a person of my antecedents should have had a life like a bad Russian novel.” It’s probably Dostoevsky that Eliot had in mind here, about whom he had decidedly …

NYR DAILY

Ted Hughes’s ‘Last Letter’

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath on their honeymoon, Paris, 1956

“What happened that night?
    Your final night.”
So begins “Last Letter,” a poem, or rather draft of a poem, by Ted Hughes published in the October 11 issue of the British magazine the New Statesman. “Last Letter” was clearly intended to take its place in Hughes’s 1998 collection of poems to Plath, Birthday Letters, but it’s also clear that he never managed to finish it before he died on October 28, 1998. I suppose anything a poet as famous as Hughes didn’t get around to destroying before he died is likely to end up in the public domain eventually, and certainly a poem that at last sets out what he was up to on that fatal, freezing weekend of February 9 and 10 of 1963 was not going to languish in the British Library’s archive forever.

NYR CALENDAR