“Stop all the clocks” vs. “Lock up the living day”

In the 1590s, the poet Michael Drayton wrote Peirs Gaveston, Earle of Cornwall, a long poem about a 14th-century courtier who was the favorite and probable lover of Edward II (and whose first name is usually spelled Piers). Most of the poem is in Gaveston’s voice, but a few pages from the end, Drayton imagines King Edward mourning Gaveston in extravagant, almost histrionic terms:

O heavens (quoth hee) lock up the living day,
Cease sunn to lend the world thy glorious light,
Starrs, flye your course, and wander all astray,
Moone, lend no more thy silver shine by night.

Drayton’s Edward goes on to make similar demands upon the earth, the sea, the air, the wind, beasts, birds, fish, worms, meadows, mountains, groves, fountains, furies, spirits, ghosts, gods, devils, men, eyes, head, heart, hands, poets, and shepherds. Drayton seems to have been a big fan of the catalog as a rhetorical device. It’s possible that he sent his rhetoric over the top as a way of commenting on the character of Edward II, whose judgment seems to have been strongly colored by his emotions; it’s also possible that Drayton himself relished the sound of emotional extremity.

The stanzas remind me of W. H. Auden’s 1936 poem “Funeral Blues.” There, too, a poet mourns by making a somewhat absurd catalog: the speaker orders the silencing of clocks, dogs, telephones, pianos, and instructs airplanes, doves, and traffic police to join him in mourning. Auden seems to have been playing with the effect of hyperbole more consciously than Drayton did, and seems aware of the sense of irony that hyperbole naturally induces in readers. Can one be taken seriously, even in extremity, if one talks so absolutely? In the moment of bereavement, does one want to be taken seriously?

Auden’s fourth and final stanza reads as follows:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

John Fuller, whose commentaries on Auden’s poems are usually comprehensive, makes no reference to Drayton as a possible source for Auden, and the echo might of course be coincidental. But before Auden’s day—in fact, until very recently—there weren’t all that many elegies for gay lovers, and it seems possible to me that Auden had Drayton’s example in mind.

My preview of books forthcoming in winter and spring 2017

While I was looking through publishers’ catalogs, the following titles caught my eye. This will seem to be an idiosyncratic list, if you aren’t me. I haven’t read these books yet myself (except for one or two), so my one-liners here are based only on the publishers’ descriptions—please don’t hold me to them!

JANUARY 2017

Paulo Lemos Horta. Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights. Harvard. The 1001 nights were more collaboratively written than the jacket copy suggests.

Czeslaw Milosz. The Mountains of Parnassus. Yale. An unfinished dystopian sci-fi novel from the 1970s, about a world without hierarchy, patriarchy, or religion.

Brook Thomas. The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White. Johns Hopkins University Press. W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles Chesnutt, Constance Fenimore Woolson, et al.

Andrea Carandini, ed. The Atlas of Ancient Rome: Biography and Portraits of the City. Princeton. Maps enhanced with archaeology, super-deluxe-looking.

Rachel Cusk. Transit. FSG. A sequel to Outline, in which a writer moves to London with her two sons.

Paul Ford. The Secret Lives of Web Pages. FSG. How the interwebs really work.

J. D. Daniels. The Correspondence: Essays. FSG. The n+1 contributor writes about his life as janitor and adjunct professor and what the point of civilization is.

FEBRUARY 2017

Mark Tushnet, Alan Chen, and Joseph Blocher. Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment. NYU Press. Why does the First Amendment cover speech that isn’t composed of words?

Megan Marshall. Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Edward J. Balleisen. Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff. Princeton. A comprehensive history, from Barnum to Madoff.

George Saunders. Lincoln in the Bardo. Random House. Saunders’s first novel is a historical one about the President-martyr and a dead son.

Umberto Saba. Ernesto. NYRB. An Italian novel about a 16-year-old boy whose sexuality is awakened by a liaison with a workingman.

John Rhodehamel. George Washington: The Wonder of the Age. Yale. A concise biography by the editor of the Washington Library of America volume.

Walter Scheidel. The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the 21st Century. Princeton. Only deaths in large numbers have ever brought the poor and the rich back to one another’s levels.

David Moss. Democracy: A Case Study. Harvard. Nineteen episodes when the integrity of the United States was threatened by “capture” of its democratic leaders or by tyranny of the majority.

David Armitage. Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. Knopf. A survey of the thing and the idea, which may not be well matched.

Vivek Shanbhag. Ghachar Ghochar. Penguin. Success messes up a close-knit Indian family. 

MARCH 2017

Attar. The Conference of the Birds. Norton. A new translation of the classic Persian poem, a Sufi-mystical allegory of the soul’s search for meaning.

Paul Watson. Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition. Norton. A journalist describes the 1845 disasters in pursuit of the Northwest Passage, and the 2014 (and 2016? did it go to press before the news?) rediscovery of the ships.

Kim Phillips-Fein. Fear City: The New York City Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of the Age of Austerity. Metropolitan. The story of NYC’s 1975 near-bankruptcy.

Byung-Chul Han. The Agony of Eros and In the Swarm: Digital Prospects. MIT. Philosophy by a German of Korean descent, arguing that eros is under threat from an idolization of power, and that Twitter is a democracy-threatening shitstorm.

Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght. Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy. Harvard. Let the money grow on trees.

Steven P. Remy. The Malmedy Massacre: The War Crimes Trial Controversy. Harvard. How a war crimes trial of Waffen SS members who mass-killed American POWs was subverted by an anti-Semitic campaign.

Michel Leiris. The Rules of the Game, vol. 1, 2, and 3. Transl. by Lydia Davis. Yale Margellos. Three of the four volumes of a French intellectual’s autobiography.

Patricia Mainardi. Another World: Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Print Culture. Yale. Graphic novels, comics, and other images from the dawn of mass literature.

Diane Waggoner. East of the Mississippi: 19th-Century American Landscape Photography. Yale. Photo-incunabula of the American landscape.

Michael C. Corballis. The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From. Chicago. The evolution of language was gradual rather than abrupt. Cf. Daniel Everett, How Language Began, coming in August.

Tom Nichols. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters. Oxford.

Sarah Ruden. The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible. Pantheon. How the poetry of the Bible has been lost in translation, by an acclaimed translator of Virgil and others.

Kay Redfield Jamison. Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character. Knopf. A psychiatrist has been given access to the poet’s medical records.

APRIL 2017

Joachim Kalka. Gaslight: An Album of the 19th Century. NYRB. Essays on the gestalt and gesundheit of the Victorian age, including Schiller, serial killers, and Laurel and Hardy.

Michael Lesy. Looking Backward. Norton. The author of Wisconsin Death Trip presents 250 turn-of-the-twentieth-century stereoviews, and argues for 3-D’s importance in American photo history.

Michael Wallis. The Way West: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny. Liveright. A new account—”demythologizing,” according to the catalog copy.

Lee Siegel. The Draw. FSG. A memoir of the literary critic’s childhood during the recessionary 1970s in New Jersey, when his parents went bankrupt and divorced.

Adam Zagajewski. Slight Exaggeration. FSG. A mosaic-like memoir from the Polish poet.

Franz Hessel. Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital. MIT. The original flaneur, an inspiration to Walter Benjamin, in facing-page translation from German.

Robert Thorson. The Boatman: Henry D. Thoreau’s River Years. Harvard. Thoreau as a water protector. See Laura Walls, Henry David Thoreau, in July.

Laszlo Krasznahorkai. The Manhattan Project. Sylph Editions. A meditation on Melville written while on fellowship at the NYPL, by the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International.

Martin Van Creveld. More on War. Oxford. An updating of Clausewitz, by a theorist who reportedly predicted the rise of terrorism.

Pajtim Statovci. My Cat Yugoslavia. Pantheon. A Finn of Muslim descent goes to a gay bar and picks up a talking cat, who moves in.

David Callahan. The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. Knopf. How the new economy’s new aristocrats are using their money to reshape government and society.

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Devil on the Cross. Penguin. A re-issue of the classic African novel, written on toilet paper while the author was in prison, about a young Kenyan woman struggling against capitalism’s alteration of her country.

MAY 2017

Leonora Carrington. Down Below. NYRB. A memoir of the Surrealist painter’s stay in an insane asylum after her lover Max Ernst was sent to a concentration camp.

Edouard Louis. The End of Eddy. FSG. A gay Frenchman survives growing up in a working-class village in northern France.

David S. Brown. Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Harvard. New biography positions Fitzgerald as a Progressive thinker writing about America in change.

Zeynep Tufekci. Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Yale. The internet makes organizing protest faster than ever before, but has weaknesses that are novel and not widely understood. Analysis by a quick-witted on-the-ground reporter.

Max Frisch. From the Berlin Journal. Seagull. First publication of the diaries kept by the author of I’m Not Stiller.

Gilles Kepel. Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West. Princeton. A best-seller in France, about ISIS’s dream, shared by the nativist right, of separating Muslims from Europe’s mainstream.

Bryan Wagner. The Tar Baby: A Global History. Princeton. The international roots of the Uncle Remus story, which is to be understood as “a collective work in political philosophy.”

Mary V. Dearborn. Ernest Hemingway. Knopf. First full biography in fifteen years, drawing on new sources, by the biographer of Mailer.

The Diaries of John Quincy Adams, 1779–1848. The Library of America. A new edition of the monumental record left by the depressive, crotchety antislavery President with literary ambitions.

JUNE 2017

Marianne Moore. New Collected Poems. FSG. A new presentation of Moore’s poetry, which she often drastically revised and deleted in her own collecteds.

Hans Keilson. 1944 Diary. FSG. A diary, discovered after Keilson’s death at 101, of his nine months in hiding with the Dutch resistance, including a love affair and notes on the books he was reading.

Yascha Mounk. The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State. Harvard. The responsibility to be self-sufficient has displaced a more communitarian understanding, and it shouldn’t have.

Elizabeth Anderson. Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk about It). Princeton. The rights of most employees are constrained by their employers even after hours, in ways that classically would have been understood as only appropriate for a government.

Erica Wagner. Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling: The Man Who built the Brooklyn Bridge. Bloomsbury. About the builder, who was the son of the designer.

Richard Holmes. This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic Biographer. Pantheon. A famous biographer reviews his career.

JULY 2017

Thorkild Hansen. Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition of 1761-1767. NYRB. A nonfiction account of a scientific expedition to present-day Yemen that fell victim to murderous intellectual rivalry and left only one survivor.

Laura Dassow Walls. Henry David Thoreau: A Life. Chicago. A full-scale bio, putting HDT into social context.

Clayton Childress. Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel. Princeton. A sociologist follows a 2009 historical novel through its life cycle, from the author’s choice of topic to the verdict of book groups who read it.

AUGUST 2017

Suzy Hansen. Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World. FSG. A memoir of a young journalist’s life in Istanbul, and her experience of seeing American power from the other side. 

Akhil Sharma. A Life of Adventure and Delight. Norton. Stories about people trying to be good.

Adam Winkler. We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights. Norton. The backstory to Citizens United.

Daniel L. Everett. How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention. Norton. “We are not born with an instinct for language,” says the catalog copy, though it also says language is the result of evolution. 

Frederick Crews. Freud: From Scientist to Wizard. Metropolitan. Another takedown, with access to archives not yet public.

Reading with n+1 at the Ace Hotel

I’ll be reading from my new science fiction story at the Ace Hotel on January 24th at 7pm. Also reading will be other contributors to the winter 2017 issue of n+1, including Dayna Tortorici, Nikil Saval, A. S. Hamrah, Sam Frank, Naomi Fry, Joshua Cohen, and Thomas Bolt. The Ace Hotel is at 20 West 29th St., NYC. Subscribers to n+1 get in free (hint, hint), and tickets for others cost $10. RSVP on on Facebook to reserve a place.