Since this is a bookish chronicle, we should begin by honoring the great poet Czeslaw Milosz, who died several days ago at the age of ninety-three. We will say more about him and his life and work in the weeks to come.
Thanks much for your responses to the first two parts of this roundup. Clearly many of our readers enjoy such reports, fragmentary and subjective as they may be, and would like to see more. We'll work on that.
One among the many pitfalls that await anyone compiling such lists is the ever-present danger of prefabricated language. A few days ago on the preeminent gatekeeper website, Arts & Letters Daily, I came across an article on "reviewerese." The author, Tom Payne, is new to me, but I will start to keep an eye out for his byline. Here is how he begins: "When did you last come across the words 'coruscating' or 'magisterial'? It's unlikely to have been in a holiday brochure or a recipe. Surely it was on the back of a book or in a book review." Payne provides a handy list of words and phrases favored by reviewers and blurbists. I laughed throughout, but some of the laughter was self-directed. Here was our old friend "darkly comic (cf wickedly funny)." Arrgh! These formulas insinuate themselves like a virus. Not to mention penetrating insights and searingly honest and steeped in scholarship, and that standby, the workmanlike biography. All I can do is resolve to redouble my vigilanceand keep Payne's list handy.
In the September/October issue of B&C, I mention the poet Charles Simic's encounter with "Protestant evangelicals" in the American South, as reported in the August 12 issue of the New York Review of Books. While Simic's account is intended for the horrified delectation of the enlightened ("If ...1
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