SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Wyatt Mason’s weekend reads are part of the rhythm of my life, but this week’s offering is a particular delight. Start with his post from Friday, Frederick Seidel, “A Poet of Great Innocence” and continue to his superlative profile of Seidel in the pages of tomorrow’s New York Times Magazine, in which you’ll find this amazing passage:
his verses seem to possess a quality “so upsetting that some people… essentially they want to obliterate you.” I asked him if he had a sense of what that quality was. “I think it’s an unembarrassed tone… a calmly unembarrassed tone while saying something ‘unacceptable.’ The word unacceptable of course has quotes around it. They are unapologetic, the poems are— I am— the tone is.”
It’s interesting to contemplate Seidel paired with his rough contemporary Robert Pirsig–two significant writers of the last century who place value in and take inspiration from motorcycles. Seidel favors a Ducati 916, Pirsig a BMW R60, but they share something bordering on a death wish. And Seidel’s work mingles dark flashes of eccentricity with its cultural conservatism. Wyatt’s interview-essay serves a laudable purpose, and that, of course, is to provoke us to read more of the magnificent but at times oddly dark writings of “the poet laureate of high louche.”
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”