A note in Barbara Pym's diary instructs: "Read some of Jane Austen's last chapters and find out how she manages all the loose ends." Next entry, a fairly typical one: "The Riviera Cafe, St. Austell is decorated in shades of chocolate brown. Very tasteless, as are the cakes." This was written in 1952. She was 38, had published two novels, Some Tame Gazelle and the resplendent Excellent Women, and was at work on the next. It had taken 15 years of dutiful revising and circulating it around for Some Tame Gazelle to find a publisher. During the rewrites she had tried to heed her agent's advice to "be more wicked, [...]
Every year on the first of April the editors of The Awl commission a poem by a respected scribe to best encapsulate our feelings about the day. This time around we went with an Englishman of the 20th century known for his bleak and unsparing view of modern life. Enjoy!
When my friends started having children, as much as I thought about what role I'd play in their kids' lives, it was as the sort of friend of the family who, when you're teetering through teenagerdom and your early 20s, takes you out to lunch or dinner (often arriving, fortuitously, when you're most off course and down-at-heel), gives you Rilke and Asimov and the Brontes at the junctures when they can do their most good, takes your ambitions seriously, lets you be yourself while providing some calibrating sense of what the world at large will eventually expect from your conversation, etc. I had a couple such 'aunts' myself, my mom's [...]
It's clear to me that no one was built to get along with anyone else. Humans are, in fact, created to be constantly unhappy. Especially with each other. This is what I learned from reading Central European fiction. I believe it was Franz Kafka who wrote something along the lines of "We are incapable of loving, only fear excites us." After living through a decade dedicated to making us feel freaked out at all times, one might feel like the clouds now are parting. Fear hasn't excited us so much over the last 5 years or so. We've just learned to accept it. And the thing we take for [...]