It has been quite a few months for Gertrude Stein. Since Kathy Bates’ appearance as her in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Dalkey Archive Press has experienced record sales of Stein’s “The Making of Americans,” a 925-page behemoth. The Seeing Gertrude Stein Exhibit has been in San Francisco and Washington DC and on Feb. 28th The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde opens at the Met in NYC. Now Yale University Press has just released Ida: A Novel and Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected Edition. The history of the latter is fascinating:
Issue 24 of The Quarterly Conversation has a great David Foster Wallace symposium, with seven essays, including Lance Olsen on Oblivion. Also reviews of books by Rimbaud, Ovid, and Andrew Ervin, as well as an interview with Eliot Weinberger.
My review of Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries by Helen Vendler is also in the issue. NOTE: This book is the Big Other Book Club’s November Selection.
The Spring 2011 on-line edition of Rain Taxi is also full of wonderful things. Interviews with Evan Lavender-Smith, Steve Tomasula, and John Ashbery. Also reviews of books by Susan Howe, Alissa Nutting, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass, and Roland Barthes.
My review of John Hawkes’s The Passion Artist, recently re-issued by Dalkey Archive, is there as well.
Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.
A is for “ASHBERY”—which, in large red capital letters, is by far the most prominent word on the cover of his latest book Planisphere. This confirms what we’ve known for some time: that in the expanding and heterogeneous village that is Contemporary American Poetry, “Ashbery” has become a household name, a kind of trademark style, instantly recognizable. In the same way one can say “Those sunglasses are so Fendi,” one can say, “That prose poem is very Ashberian.”