Having originally appeared in The Paris Review‘s 2009 Summer Issue, a photograph of an ornate shirt board that Gay Talese used as a notebook for his now legendary 1966 Esquire story, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”, was heavily circulated via social media networks in February. In a special anniversary edition of Esquire that also featured Talese’s marked-up boards, the editors in 2003 called his artful profile of Sinatra the best story that the magazine had ever published.
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Over at the head-dizzying emporium of good things known as Open Culture, Josh Jones recently dug up a marvelous example of syllabussing (aka, the art of creating a class syllabus; spectacular word) from the late David Foster Wallace. From 1993 to 2002, while becoming the nation’s go-to literary wunderkind, Wallace also taught at Illinois State University.
His syllabus for the Fall 1994 intro class “English 102-Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction” eschews the books we’re all used to from college English lit classes (Zora Neale Hurston, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in favor of an eclectic mix of mass-market fiction, ranging from Stephen King’s Carrie to Jackie Collins’ Rock Star.
I was wondering recently if anyone still used actual, physical reference books when Oxford Press sent me the new paperback edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Reference & Allusion. I had no idea there was such a thing, but I love it! I’m always stumbling over some reference, either to some classical book I should have read in high school or some big deal movie character I never heard of. This dictionary totally answers that problem.
I have a great respect for collectors. Hoarders even. There’s something reverential about taxonomies (boxes, toys, little glass dachshunds, paper clips)—a mesmeric quality to so much like with like. Like walking through a cemetery.
Memoirists are similar. Like collectors, they acknowledge that before something can be remembered it has to be dismembered, de-limbed, cut off or separated from—so as to remember—itself. It is in such a spirit of re-collection that Sea Monkeys, the new ‘memory book’ from cult novelist, Kris Saknussemm (Zanesville, Enigmatic Pilot), proceeds.
The stereotype of the rock bassist is that he’s an underappreciated second banana. But Mike Watt, who burst onto the scene in the late ‘70s with LA punk pioneers the Minutemen and whose artistic energy hasn’t flagged since, has never been content to let his instrument do the talking. This is lucky for us, because as On and Off Bass demonstrates through its lush, contemplative photography, prose and verse, Watt has plenty more that deserves to be heard.
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