TAKE ARMS AGAINST A SEA OF TROUBLES

THE POWER OF THE READER’S MIND OVER A UNIVERSE OF DEATH

Reading, this stirring collection testifies, “helps in staying alive.”

The eminent scholar revisits his literary passions.

In 16 dense, erudite, and surprisingly intimate essays, Bloom (1930-2019) offers a sweeping overview of major Western poets, from Homer to contemporary African American Jay Wright, whom Bloom praises as “among the best American poets of whatever origin or complexion.” As well as celebrating beloved writers, Bloom also reassesses his own work. “If you live ninety years,” he admits, “you will be a battered survivor. Your own mistakes, accidents, failures at otherness beat you down.” To assuage those feelings, he advises, “Rise up at dawn and read something that matters as soon as you can.” He reconsiders his argument in The Anxiety of Influence (1973), analyzing ways in which writers respond to their predecessors. Now, he reveals, the anxiety of influence “seems to me literary love tempered by ambivalence, as all love is.” Throughout, Freud looms large as “a major essayist in the tradition of Montaigne and Emerson, and not as a supposed scientist”; not as “the master of dream interpretation (where I doubt him) and certainly not the would-be therapist (talking cures) but the pessimistic seer of the human condition.” Bloom’s visceral connection to poets results in vivid, vigorous portraits, whether of poets he knew—Auden, Frost—or those he has read for so long that “it scarcely seems reading anymore.” As he writes of Wallace Stevens, “I am now perpetually on oxygen yet still have the sensation that I breathe the clear air of Stevens.” Early on in this astute collection, the author marks his terrain: “What you read and how deeply you read matters almost as much as how you love, work, exercise, vote, practice charity, strive for social justice, cultivate kindness and courtesy, worship if you are capable of worship. The mind is an activity and will decay into dark inertia if not sustained by the sustenance of reading.”

Reading, this stirring collection testifies, “helps in staying alive.”

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-24728-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • IndieBound Bestseller

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • IndieBound Bestseller

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018


  • New York Times Bestseller

CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018


  • New York Times Bestseller

In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

Categories:
Close Quickview