“Beyond the Waters of Death,” Joan Acocella’s New Yorker piece on the making of GILGAMESH (14 October 2019)

  • “A young Londoner, George Smith, who had left school at the age of fourteen and was employed as an engraver of bank notes,” was fascinated by artifacts. He spent lunch breaks at the British Museum and “studied the shards for around ten years . . . it was he who found the most famous passage inscribed on them, an account of a great flood wiping out almost all of humanity, with one man’s family surviving. When he read this, we are told, he became so excited that he jumped out of his chair and ran around the room, tearing off his clothes.”

George Smith died of dysentery in Aleppo, where he’d gone to do research, age 36. But not before he discovered the oldest long poem in the world, Gilgamesh.

Everywhere in the world has an ancient flood story. Even Mexico. Even the Philippines. Self thinks this means there must have been an actual climactic event whose effects were felt worldwide.

Stay safe dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

#backreading The New Yorker, 14 October 2019

Found, in a pile of unread New Yorkers, the issue that lauds Jenny Lewis’s Gilgamesh Retold (available now as an audiobook featuring Jenny reading her own work, on the Carcanet website)

 

It’s partly about George Smith, “an engraver of banknotes,” who “spent his lunch hours at the British Museum, studying its holdings.” Eventually, Smith was hired to “help analyze the thousands of clay shards that had been shipped … ” from “Nineveh, an important city in ancient Mesopotamia … the reason so many tablets had been found in one place was that they were the remains of a renowned library, that of Ashurbanipal, a king of the neo-Assyrian Empire in the seventh century B.C.” The script was written in cuneiform, a script “no one could read.”

The article, by Joan Acocella, is very long. But worth noting is that it reviews Jenny Lewis’s new collection, Gilgamesh Retold. Self has heard Jenny read, and her voice — Shohreh Aghdashloo level.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The New Yorker, 6 April 2020: Unscientific Method

From The Talk of the Town:

  • Trump’s quackery was at once eccentric and terrifying — a reminder, if one was needed, of his scorn for rigorous science, even amid the worst pandemic to strike the country in a century. Yet his conduct typified his leadership as the crisis has identified: his dependency on Fox News for ideas and message amplification, his unshakable belief in his own genius, and his understandable concern that his re-election may be in danger if he does not soon discover a way to vanquish COVID-19 and reverse its devastation of the economy.

Sentence of the Day: THE RUN OF HIS LIFE

p. 155:

That night I took the red-eye home to New York (The in-flight movie was Naked Gun 33 1/3, starring, among others, O. J. Simpson)

There is a rich vein of irony running through The Run of His Life: The People vs O. J. Simpson. Toobin mines this for all it’s worth.

This book: classic with a capital ‘C.’

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Gaslighting 1994

Woe is me.

LAPD criminologist Collin Yamauchi “spent two days, June 14 and June 15,” doing DNA testing on the blood samples found at Simpson’s home and found that:

The blood drops on the pathway at Bundy matched Simpson’s type — a characteristic found in only 7% of the population. And the blood on the glove found behind Kato’s room at Rockingham was consistent with a mixture of Simpson’s and the two victims’. —  p. 81, The Run of His Life: The People vs O. J. Simpson

Apparently, the jurors in O. J. Simpson’s trial did not give much credence to this evidence, relying instead on Johnnie Cochran’s

“If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.”

Jeff Toobin’s account of the trial is AMAZING. He became a New Yorker staff writer just the year before.

20200305_163355-1

1994: Jeffrey Toobin at O. J. Simpson’s trial

 

The Run Of His Life: The People vs O. J. Simpson, p. 11

Self didn’t think this book would be as fleet as it is. But, props to Jeff Toobin for getting The Big Question out of the way quickly: Yes, O. J. Simpson was guilty. Moving ON!

Because of the overwhelming evidence of Simpson’s guilt, his lawyers could not undertake a defense aimed at proving his innocence — one that sought to establish, say, that some other person had committed the murders. Instead, in an astonishing act of legal bravado, they sought to create for the client — a man they believed to be a killer — the mantle of victimhood. Almost from the day of Simpson’s arrest, his lawyers sought to invent a separate narrative, an alternative reality, for the events of June 12, 1944. This fictional version was both elegant and dramatic. It posited that Simpson was the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy of racist law enforcement officials who had fabricated and planted evidence in order to frame him for a crime he did not commit. It was also, of course, an obscene parody of an authentic civil rights struggle, for this one pitted a guilty ‘victim’ against innocent ‘perpetrators.’

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Thursday: Fabian Severo

from Sixty, by Fabian Severo

translated from the Portuñol by Laura Cesarco Eglin and Jesse Lee Kercheval

published in the The New Yorker, 2 December 2019

We are from the border
like the sun that is born there
behind the eucalyptus
shines all day
above the river
and goes to sleep there
beyond the Rodrigueses’ house.

From the border like the moon
that makes the night nearly day
resting its moonlight
on the banks of the Cuareim.

Like the wind
that makes the flags dance
like the rain
carries away their shacks
together with ours.

All of us are from the border
like those birds
flying from there to here
singing in a language
everyone understands.

We came from the border
we go to the border
like our grandparents and our children
eating bread that the Devil kneaded
suffering in this end of the world.

 

 

Poetry Friday: Dorothea Lasky

Excerpt from The Green Lake (in The New Yorker, 9 December 2019):

What work will you leave behind
I ask the tailor
Who has sewn the button upon my shoe
I can walk again

Yesterday everything felt so hopeless
Now I have the energy to sit in the sun
All of the damned seething baths
Now I am finally on my own


Dorothea Lasky is the author of six books of poetry and prose, including, most recently, Animal

Poetry Wednesday: Megan Fernandes

Excerpt from Scylla and Charybdis

I like when the choices are both ugly —
the rock and the hard place. Odysseus chose
Scylla and I, too, would have opted for
a terrestrial evil, the sea vortex probably
concealing some subterranean meat with its beauty.
Soon you and I will exist in different time zones.

Oh, this poem is lovely! Read it today in a back issue of The New Yorker (19 August 2019), just pulled from the bottom of a huge pile of stuff.

Stay tuned.

Poetry Sunday: The New Yorker, 2 December 2019

Excerpt from SIXTY

by Fabian Severo (translated from the Portuñol by Laura Cesarco Eglin and Jesse Lee Kercheval

We are from the border
like the sun that is born there
behind the eucalyptus
shines all day
above the river
and goes to sleep there
beyond the Rodrigues’s house.

Fabian Severo is an Uruguayan poet. His collection, Night in the North, translated from the Portuñol by Laura Cesarco Eglin and Jesse Lee Kercheval, will be published in the spring.

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