She mentioned Ernest Hemingway more than once while saying Paul would benefit, as a writer, from the interesting experience. Paul said he would benefit from being in America, where he could speak the language and maintain friendships and “do things,” he said in Mandarin, visualizing himself on his back, on his yoga mat, with his MacBook on the inclined surface of his thighs, formed by bending his knees, looking at the internet.
It’s impossible to overstate how much reviewers hated MacLane and how deeply they held her in contempt, citing her “vulgarity” and calling her book “a revelation of self which is not interesting or sympathetic.” Their insistence on calling her “boring” quickly begins to seem absurd: if she was so boring, why were they so obsessed? Critics also insisted that she was doing the world a disservice by getting attention that they (disingenuously) declared ought to be granted to presumably worthier writers: “Think of the hundreds of poor lonesome girls working away at the making of literature who cannot get their literature printed and published.” When asked to explain MacLane’s popularity, they mostly just threw up their hands in befuddlement: “People go wild over young girls writing slush about themselves,” the author of a MacLane parody “explained” in 1902.
In a lot of contemporary literature, and in memoir especially, there’s this mandate for redemption at the end. People want a happy ending. If it can’t be happy they at least want to know that the narrator has learned from whatever mistakes she just spent hundreds of pages chronicling and is, by the end of the book, ready to be a better person. I certainly understand the desire for that but, unfortunately, that’s not the way life works. Some mistakes we never learn from. A great portion of our lives are spent engaging in the same unproductive patterns over and over again.
From Left to Right: “The Exile,” by Allan Folsom; “Remembrance of Things Past, Vol. 3: The Captive, The Fugitive & Time Regained,” by Marcel Proust; Zen in the Art of Archery,” by Eugen Herrigel; Unknown Title.
The Exile: Borrow I Read
Can anyone identify the fourth book? Here is an obstructed close-up of the cover.
Hi Brian Ulicky! Reading Proust on the train. What a badass.
You might have already guessed that this is Emily Books's March pick! We'll send it to our subscribers on its NYRB release date in late March, later than we usually send out our picks, but worth the wait.
I got the print edition in the mail yesterday and last night cracked its spine waiting for my subway home from work. Within ten seconds a man approached me. He had something to say! ”That’s my favorite book,” he said. “I’m so glad more people are reading it now.”
I stuttered something about how it is a new edition and he just gave me a look like obviously he knows that, everyone knows that. After a week on the West Coast an interaction like this was just what I needed to feel back at home. Now you’re in New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of slightly pompous dudes who know when to anticipate the release of new NYRB Classics.
This is a photo of the first time I met Meghan Daum! The second time will be tonight and no one will be styling us like fierce vampires, un/fortunately.
I feel like I’m in some ways less and in some other ways more of an idiot than I was in the joint interview that accompanied this photo, and in the book that prompted it. I wonder if Meghan feels the same way about the essay collection she published near the end of her 20s? Tonight, I will ask her that, live onstage.