First Things First: Here's our Books Page for Sunday, October 4, right now!:
Recommended: Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 176 pp., $24) by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Lacerating, poetic, and frank, Coates, who just was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, offers a searing look at the predicament of anyone with a black body in the physical and social universe of the present-day United States. I’ll have a Q&A with him in the Oct. 11 Inquirer.
Poet, essayist, critic, and novelist Al Alvarez surprises with his memoir Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal (Bloomsbury, 272 pp., $17). Now in his 80s, Al’s been swimming for years in the beautiful (but to me, always very cold-looking) ponds in London’s Hampstead Heath. This book will make you shiver, smile, think, and … shiver. Still, it leaves you refreshed, breathing deep, and glad to be alive.
Perused with Profit: All That You’ve Seen Here Is God, by Bryan Doerries (Vintage, 480 pp., $16.95) and The Theater of War, by Bryan Doerries (Knopf, 306 pp., $26.95). Doerries is a translator and theater guy who, in a project called Theater of War, presents performances of Greek tragedies to soldiers, veterans, and their families to spur conversations about war and its personal and community impact. Doerries heads a second group, Outside the Wire, with a wider aim, performing drama to explore pressing public issues. In All That You’ve Seen Here Is God, he offers versions of three Sophocles plays (Ajax, Philoctetes, and The Women of Trachis) and one by Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound). They’re versions (powerful ones) rather than translations, written with our moment, our wars, our soldiers, our issues, in mind. Some folks resist the notion of applying ancient works to modern problems, as if this were a form of “popularization” or “topicalization.” But while some may sniff at his suggestion, for example, that PTSD is involved in Ajax, I don’t think it minimizes the play. In Theater of War, Doerries makes a detailed case for the important connections people involved in war can find in these plays, and how finding those connections can help heal. He’s knowledgeable about both the plays and our contemporary issues, and persuasive about the many, crucial uses these ancient wonder-works have in 2015 to help men and women wounded in the world’s most dangerous, and alas, probably oldest (sorry, sex workers) profession. The two books should be read together. It’s a worthy undertaking.
Blogs and Podcasts: Come on, these are kinds of reading, so … there.First, get on Twitter and follow Herdwick Shepherd at @herdyshepherd1 !!!
Here’s some lovely blogs.
First, Books, Inq – The Epilogue, my sister blog by my brother Frank Wilson, former Books Editor here at The Inquirer. His blog is much better than mine.In the Yale blog Post42, Katherine Hill, who has the excellent taste to review for me, has posted this gorgeous meditation on the writing of Elena Ferrante, to which I am a recent, wildly enthusiastic convert.
And my friend and fellow freelancer Jackie Syrop posts this blog titled, “Why Does It Take a Lifetime?”If you like poetry, why aren’t you reading Dianne Lockwood’s Poetry Newsletter?
As for podcasts, there are so many good ones I tremble to begin a list. As with everything, from sex to sex, all depends on what you like. Here are a few I like.
Can anyone not yet have traversed the agonized, addicting corridors of Serial?