Just in time for the long weekend, it’s Open Letters Monthly‘s July issue. Whether you need a little respite from barbecue, fireworks, or the threatened heat wave, this month has an eclectic selection to chill with.
Nathan Schneider leads off with a “hypothetical bookshelf manifesto,” In Defense of the Memory Theater, a meditation on what effects the physical book and its speculative absence have on the library we carry in our heads. The Memory Theater—basically a complex series of mnemonics conceived of as a physical space—is a slightly arcane concept I’ve been interested in for a while. Schneider’s take on the way it might relate to contemporary readers is interesting and thought-provoking. It’s definitely a piece I’ll be coming back to:
As the business of reading technology continues along its trajectory, whether apocalyptic or utopian or both, perhaps those of us who continue to fancy ourselves concerned readers—however much we give in to the new and shiny—might turn our attention anew to what one might call “inner work.” In the part of ourselves which is not technological, we could rediscover the tautology that what makes knowledge so precious is its precariousness, not the surety of our control over it.
In the spirit of Independence Day, we have Thomas J. Daly on Richard Archer’s As If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of the Revolution, Kevin Mullins on Roy R. Manstan and Frederic J. Frese’s Turtle: David Bushnell’s Revolutionary Vessel (the great-grandpa of the submarine, it turns out), and—solidly American, if not revolutionary—Greg Waldmann on Jonathan Alter’s The Promise: President Obama, Year One.
And in the spirit of independence, period, some essays on women of questionable virtue but definite interest: Rohan Maitzen on Thackeray’s Becky Sharp; Irma Heldman on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; Steve Donoghue on G.W. Bernard’s Anne Boleyn, Laura Tanenbaum on Betty Draper from Mad Men, and Ingrid Norton on two intrepid broads: Holly Golightly and Sally Bowles.
Not quite as feisty, apparently, is Marilynne Robinson’s Absence of Mind, reviewed by Sam Sacks; John G. Rodwan Jr. subjects Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow to a very mixed peer review. And yes, there are zombies—Dierdre Crimmins looks at Craig Dilouie’s Tooth and Nail.
Marc Vincenz talks poetry with Katia Kapovich, and from Emily Pettit, a new poem: I Am Asking You to Look at Me, Touch Me, Talk to Me.
This month’s multimedia artwork, Patsy’s Pride, is by Randolph Pfaff and Carissa Halston.