WP Book World

by Henry Farrell on January 26, 2009

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for the last week or so; one of the things that I would have written about if I had been around are the persistent and well sourced rumours (see e.g. “Scott’s post at _IHE_”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/blogs/intellectual_affairs_the_blog/shutting_down_the_washington_post_book_world ) that the _Washington Post_ is considering shutting down their weekly _Book World_ supplement. Editor Marcus Brauchli (whom, if rumor is to be believed, is pushing the change) has prominently failed to deny the reports, merely stating that “We are absolutely committed to book reviews and coverage of literature, publishing and ideas in The Post” (which I suspect, if decoded, translates to something like “we may still stick in the odd book review as filler when we’re running low on Paris Hilton stories”). The closure of _Book World_ is something I’d take personally; when I first came to DC in the 1990s, it was a surprise and a delight to see pieces that took, say, John Crowley seriously, interspersed with the more usual reviews of biographies, political books and so on. And Michael Dirda should be declared a Living Treasure. I understand that this decision isn’t set in stone – if you want to tell the Washington Post that this is a bad idea, you can do so “here”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/opinions/feedback/index.html#tellusBox. _WP_ subscribers are especially encouraged to make their feelings known.

Crowley on Disch II

by Henry Farrell on January 26, 2009

John Crowley’s piece on Thomas Disch, which I blogged about previously, is now “available online”:http://www.bostonreview.net/BR34.1/crowley.php. Also of interest is _Ghost Ship_, one of Disch’s last poems, which Crowley quotes in its totality, and which is surely one of the few poetical treatments of an online comment section.

There must be many other such derelicts—
orphaned, abandoned, adrift for whatever reason—
but few have kept flying before the winds
of cyberspace so briskly as Drunk Driver
(the name of the site). Anonymous (the author)
signed his last entry years ago, and more years passed
before the Comments began to accrete
like barnacles on the hull of a ship
and then in ever-bifurcating chains
on each other. The old hulk became
the refuge of a certain shy sort
of visitor, like those trucks along the waterfront
haunted by lonely souls who could not bear
eye-witness encounters. They could leave
their missives in the crevices of this latter-day
Wailing Wall, returning at intervals
to see if someone had replied, clicking
their way down from the original message—

_April 4. Another gray day. Can’t find the energy to get the laundry down to the laundry room. The sciatica just won’t go away._

—through the meanders and branchings
of the encrusted messages, the tenders
of love for a beloved who would never know herself
to have been desired, the cries of despair,
the silly whimsies and failed jokes, to where
the thread had last been snapped,
only to discover that no, no one had answered
the question posed. Because,
no doubt, there was no answer.
Is there an “answer” to the war
wherever the latest war is going on?
If one could get under the ship
and see all those barnacles clinging
to the keel, what a sight it would be.
Talk about biodiversity! But on deck,
so sad, always the same three skeletons,
the playing card nailed to the mast,
frayed and fluttering weakly, like some huge insect
the gods will not allow to die.