Revelations

Matthew Cheney: New York: A Guide to the Empire State, com­piled by mem­bers of the Writ­ers’ Pro­gram of the Work Projects Admin­is­tra­tion and first pub­lished in 1940, remains a fas­ci­nat­ing book. “The aver­age New York­er,” the guide says of the city’s cit­i­zens, “con­di­tioned to crowds, speed, Wall Street, even vio­lent death, takes his city for grant­ed.”

Tyler Dean: “Dionea” by Ver­non Lee. I describe it to my stu­dents as “the scari­est thing I have ever read,” which is only hyper­bol­ic in the sense that it will set up false expec­ta­tions for them. Lee (a nom-de-plume for the Vic­to­ri­an writer, Vio­let Page) pub­lished “Dionea” as a lengthy short story/brief novel­la in her 1890 col­lec­tion Haunt­ings: Fan­tas­tic Sto­ries. “Dionea” has all the trap­pings of Vic­to­ri­an hor­ror prose: an epis­to­lary for­mat, a some­what dry and lugubri­ous nar­ra­tor, a ded­i­cat­ed refusal to be explic­it in its details but, for all that, it is suf­fused with a sense of immense men­ace and grand, cos­mic indif­fer­ence. Say­ing too much would give it away, but Lee man­ages to tell the sto­ry of a mys­te­ri­ous foundling in Mon­temir­to on the Tyrrhen­ian Sea and stuff it full of know­ing dread, vis­cer­al body hor­ror, and deep melan­choly, top­ping it all off with a dash of pro­to-fem­i­nist vin­di­ca­tion. Lee often gets left out of the canon of great Vic­to­ri­an hor­ror writ­ers; she is due for a revival. “Dionea” ought to be the tem­ple gate for her future sup­pli­cants.

Ron Drum­mond: A few works of art I dear­ly love that deserve to be far bet­ter known than they are, along with their respec­tive cre­ators:

1) The two Irish nov­els of Kate Hors­ley, Con­fes­sions of a Pagan Nun (2001) and The Changeling of Finnis­tuath (2002). The first is set dur­ing the tran­si­tion from Druidic to Chris­t­ian Ire­land, the sec­ond is the tale of a 14th cen­tu­ry girl raised as a boy; both are wise, pas­sion­ate, dev­as­tat­ing.

2) Joel Agee’s essay “A Fury of Sym­bols”, the finest evo­ca­tion of the hal­lu­cino­genic expe­ri­ence I’ve ever read (Harper’s Mag­a­zine, Jan­u­ary 1989). Also high­ly rec­om­mend­ed Agee’s In the House of My Fear (2004).

3) David Guy’s 1991 nov­el The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of My Body, long out of print and way over­due for the New York Review Books treat­ment. Samuel R. Delany told me about this one – he said it was the best nov­el about sex he had ever read by a male het­ero­sex­u­al. Randy Byers loved it too.

4) String Quar­tet No. 2: Hunt­ing: Gath­er­ing (1987), by the South African com­pos­er Kevin Volans. Volans dreamt this three-move­ment, 22-minute work one musi­cal phrase at a time over a two-year peri­od. One of the great­est quar­tets of the 20th cen­tu­ry. I know of four record­ed per­for­mances of it; I wish there were dozens.

5) String quar­tet cycles deserv­ing of fame and close study: the eight Vien­na-era string quar­tets of Anton Reicha, the 17 quar­tets of John Black­wood McEwen, the 20 of Vagn Holm­boe, the 17 of Mieczysław Wein­berg, the last 12 of Peter Sculthor­pe, the on-going quar­tet cycle of Ele­na Ruehr..

Craig Lau­rance Gid­ney: More peo­ple should know about the Flori­da band Autumn’s Grey Solace. They are a pro­lif­ic duo that makes atmos­pher­ic, ethe­re­al music out of stan­dard rock instru­ments, and the singer most­ly uses her voice as an instru­ment. Their lat­est album, “Eocene”, the­mat­i­cal­ly (through the song titles at least) explores a geo­log­ic peri­od of time and the pieces range from almost ambi­ent and becalmed to dark and dri­ving. Pre­vi­ous works of theirs abstract­ly explored astron­o­my (“Celes­tial Realms”) and oth­er nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na. For fans of the Cocteau Twins and space rock.

Delaine Der­ry Green: If you have a chance to see ‘Car­rie The Musi­cal’ I high­ly rec­om­mend it. I even shed a few tears when I recent­ly watched this mem­o­rable show. I knew it had been one of the biggest bombs on Broad­way in the 80s, but the show has been revised and I found out they removed 7 unpop­u­lar songs from the orig­i­nal. My only com­plaint is Carrie’s moth­er is some­times too lik­able!

Lavelle Porter: I didn’t know much about Phonte’s music beyond his guest vers­es on The Roots’ How I Got Over. So when I heard his 2018 album No News Is Good News I was real­ly mad at myself for sleep­ing on him for so long. Nim­ble word­smith. Soul­ful singer. Bars for days. HBCU alum. Dirty South­ern­er. Out­kast fan. “So Help Me God” has one of the best first lines I’ve heard in a while. “Expen­sive Genes” and “Cry No More” form an arrest­ing two-track com­bo about aging, matu­ri­ty, and black health dis­par­i­ties. The whole album slaps from the first track to the last. And it sent me back to his ear­li­er albums, which are also loaded with dope tracks (“The Life of Kings” has been in heavy rota­tion on my phone late­ly). Phonte and I are around the same age, so I know I’m the tar­get audi­ence as a forty­ish old-head who spent my twen­ties lis­ten­ing to hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul, but No News Is Good News is a great album by a tal­ent­ed artist who every­one should be lis­ten­ing to. 

Ezra Pound: When Shake­speare talks of the ‘Dawn in rus­set man­tle clad’ he presents some­thing which the painter does not present. There is in this line of his noth­ing that one can call descrip­tion; he presents.

Eric Schaller: The Sec­ond Avenue Deli and Le Parisien Bistrot. Locat­ed right across from each oth­er on E 33rd St, these are our two favorite restau­rants in NYC. The food is won­der­ful and now tastes all the rich­er when mar­i­nat­ed in the nos­tal­gia of pri­or meals. The first time I went to The Sec­ond Avenue Deli, at its orig­i­nal loca­tion on 2nd Ave, I was astound­ed at the quan­ti­ty of pas­tra­mi piled high on my sand­wich then, by watch­ing anoth­er patron, I learned the secret to its con­sump­tion: order extra rye bread and cre­ate mul­ti­tudes of open-faced sand­wich­es from the one ini­tial sand­wich (a mir­a­cle of loaves and meats). Upon first enter­ing Le Parisien Bistrot, you might won­der how so many peo­ple can be seat­ed in such a small restau­rant; the secret is that there are no lanes between the tables, and your table will have to be pulled out so that you can maneu­ver around behind it to sit down. To have ready access to our favorite restau­rants, we usu­al­ly stay at Pod 39, a Euro­pean-styled hotel with small, clean, and sur­pris­ing­ly afford­able rooms.

Bri­an Fran­cis Slat­tery:  Ital cook­ing. Wah ped­als applied to instru­ments that don’t usu­al­ly have wah ped­als applied to them. Tak­ing a canoe trip lat­er in the year than it seems wise to take a canoe trip.

Marly Youmans: Some favorites among books I’ve acquired late­ly are: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: 14 Prints by Clive Hicks-Jenk­ins and the Pen­fold Press, pub­lished by Gray Mare Press of Wales to accom­pa­ny an exhib­it at MOMA Machyn­l­leth (a paper­back so love­ly that I nabbed a batch of signed copies for gifts); the Hagens’ Brueghel from Taschen; a Luisa Iglo­ria poet­ry col­lec­tion, The Bud­dha Won­ders If She is Hav­ing a Mid-Life Cri­sis, from the small-but-stel­lar Phoeni­cia Pub­lish­ing in Mon­tre­al; a first poet­ry col­lec­tion from Ryan Wil­son, The Stranger World; Nichols’s Alice’s Won­der­land: A Visu­al Jour­ney through Lewis Carroll’s Mad, Mad World (I am an Alice-addict)Augus­tine Wetta’s The Eighth Arrow (Odysseus nav­i­gat­ing Dante’s hell)Bischoff’s Mas­ter­pieces of the Pic­ture Gallery: A Brief Guide to the Kun­st His­torisches Muse­um Wien; High­est Heav­en: Span­ish and Por­tuguese Colo­nial Art, an eye-pop­ping cat­a­logue from the San Anto­nio Muse­um of Art; Mary B. Moore’s poet­ry col­lec­tion, Flick­er; Tolkien’s On Fairy-sto­ries; and the odd­ly mes­mer­iz­ing Eve­lyn Williams: Works and Hours. Relat­ed youtube addic­tion: the British Muse­um videos. My most-rel­ished recent rereads: Fred­er­ick Buechner’s Godric, D. H. Lawrence’s poems, Leon Garfield’s Smith, and the ever-clever Austen with Pride and Prej­u­dice. And re-gawks are good too: Museo Lar­co: trea­sures from ancient Peru and 50 Mas­ter­pieces of Japan­ese Art from the Tokyo Nation­al Muse­um Col­lec­tion. (Yes, I love muse­um cat­a­logues.) My favorite recent book for chil­dren – although also won­der­ful for an adult – is the new­ly illus­trat­ed The Gold­en Key: A Vic­to­ri­an Fairy Tale by George Mac­Don­ald. This pret­ty lit­tle book is a tour de force of scratch­board art by Ruth Sander­son.