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Open Letters Monthly, November 2012


I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to see a new issue of Open Letters Monthly. In the first place, its presence in my house signified internet access, and therefore electricity and heat, which we had been doing without for nearly a week. But it also signified that time was, indeed, moving along. Usually the passage of time, with its inexorable pull of deadlines and tasks, is not my friend. But when your entire existence boils down to staying warm, finding your way around in the dark, and shuffling between friends who have power in order to recharge various devices, even if only for a little while, the days do drag. Even the nice bits, like reading with a loved one by candlelight at the kitchen table or piling into bed with quilts and cats and dogs as soon as the sun goes down, get old fast. So it’s a fine thing to be able to read the November issue of Open Letters Monthly; it’s great to be back.

We did a bunch of stuff in the dark last week, but no dancing, and I doubt anyone in my household had much reason to think about Bruce Springsteen. Fortunately Steve Danziger has read Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce, and has some thoughts on memories of growing up in Monmouth County and what sounds like a good bio of the Boss (with a cameo by Jersey’s most improbable new rock star, Governor Chris Christie).

Calling something the first in a series implies at least a second, and even before last night—perhaps especially before—I appreciated Greg Waldmann’s optimistic titling of his piece on Barack Obama’s First Term. It’s good, insightful reading, even more so in today’s light with hopes for the next four years.

There’s no context in looking forward without glancing back to see who’s gone before, so Steve Donoghue gives us five Presidential biographies that offer up five very different paths to the White House: Harlow Giles Unger’s John Quincy Adams, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Aida D. Donald’s Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry Truman, Jonathan Lurie’s William Howard Taft: The Travails of a Progressive Conservative, and H.W. Brands’ The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace.

Such stuff of legend is only steps away from the stuff of folklore, and it would no doubt behoove you to read Max Ross’ review of Jack Zipes’ The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of the Genre.

Speaking of mythos and legend, Stephen Akey delves into some of the imagery of Jorge Luis Borges.

And there’s more than a little myth-making going on in Lynne Sharon Shwartz’s newest novel, Two-Part Inventions, which Rohan Maitzen reviews.

Matt Sadler finds both fun and difficulty in Joyelle McSweeney’s frenetic, freewheeling poetry collection, Percussion Grenade

From Dan Gutstein, we have an original poem, Before the Correction.

Irma Heldman takes a look at two mysteries that involve the intersection Anglo and Native American cultures: William Kent Krueger’s Trickster’s Point and Steve Hamilton’s Die a Stranger.

OLM editors Steve Donoghue and John Cotter collaborate to critique a review of a collection of criticism and reviews by critic’s critic Daniel Mendelsohn, Waiting for the Barbarians (did you get all that?).

Was that too long a description? Well then, how about: MK Hall on Zadie Smith’s NW.

And if your coffee table’s been feeling naked lately, take a look at Luciano Mangiafico’s glimpse into Francesca Flores d’Arcais’ lavish look at a master, Giotto.

We may have been forced to bypass Halloween this year, but there’s still scary stuff afloat this month. Phillip A. Lobo plays and reviews the “short experimental horror game” that riffs off of one of the internet’s creepier memes, Slender: The Eight Pages.

In his American Aristocracy series, Douglass Shand-Tucci looks at Trinity Church, centerpiece of Copley Square.

This month’s image is a detail from “Inside the Glass Origin,” a painting by artist David Abed.

That’s it… stay warm and dry and keep the lights on, if you can.

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