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Read Ezra Pound’s extensive revisions to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

Vanessa Willoughby

October 15, 2021, 3:30pm

Today, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land first appeared in print in The Criterion, a quarterly British literary magazine founded and edited by Eliot. The poem’s final form was heavily influenced by Ezra Pound, who made extensive cuts and revisions to Eliot’s manuscript. Eliot once said of his mentor and friend, who he first met in 1914 in Europe, “Mr. Pound is more responsible for the 20th‐century revolution in poetry than is any other individual.” In November of 1922, the poem appeared in the American publication the Dial, and Eliot earned the Dial Award of $2,000.

The British Library acquired Pound’s marginalia, some of which you can study below.

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Ezra Pound Eliot Edits T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Ezra Pound Eliot Edits 4 T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Ezra Pound Eliot Manuscript 6 T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Ezra Pound Eliot Manuscript 8 T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Ezra Pound Eliot Manuscript 10 T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Ezra Pound Eliot Manuscript 12 T S Eliot: © Estate of T. S. Eliot and reprinted by permission of Faber & Faber Ltd. Ezra Pound: By Ezra Pound, from New Directions Pub. acting as agent, copyright © 2015 by Mary de Rachewiltz and the Estate of Omar S. Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. Berg Collection: © The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature The New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

You can view the manuscript in its entirety here.

[via British Library]

Solange has launched a community library of rare books and art by Black creators.

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October 15, 2021, 2:45pm

Cool resource alert: Variety has reported that Solange, through her Saint Heron studio, is launching a community library of “esteemed and valuable” books by Black creators. Readers can borrow any book from the collection of rare, author-inscribed and out-of-print literary works to up to 45 days, free of charge in the U.S. According to Saint Heron’s materials, the library’s focus is “education, knowledge production, creative inspiration and skill development through works by artists, designers, historians, and activists from around the world . . . We believe our community is deserving of access to the stylistically expansive range of Black and Brown voices in poetry, visual art, critical thought and design.”

Rosa Duffy, founder of For Keeps Books, an Atlanta-based community bookstore and reading room, has guest curated the first season of the Saint Heron Library; in collaboration with Saint Heron, Duffy has curated over 50 available titles including a signed first edition of In Our Terribleness by Leroi Jones, Meren Hassinger 1972-1991, a signed The Meeting Point by Austin Clarke, My One Good Nerve Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, inscribed by the authors to Maya Angelou, and more. The first season, supported by Aesop Skincare, will run from October 18th until the end of November.

“The Saint Heron Library continues the work we have been building by preserving collections of creators with the urgency they deserve,” said Solange in a statement. “Together we seek to create an archive of stories and works we deem valuable. These works expand imaginations, and it is vital to us to make them accessible to students, and our communities for research and engagement, so that the works are integrated into our collective story and belong and grow with us. I look forward to the Saint Heron library continuously growing and evolving and over the next decade becoming a sacred space for literature and expressions for years to come.”

You can read an interview with Rosa Duffy, guest curator of Saint Heron Library’s first season, on Saint Heron’s website.

“Dialogue reeketh, play stinketh.” The worst insults from reviews of The Iceman Cometh.

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October 15, 2021, 2:11pm

When critics panned the Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Days Without End, he left Broadway for twelve years. Finally, in 1946, one Nobel Prize richer, O’Neill returned with The Iceman Cometh—in his opinion, the best show he’d ever written. In fact, he had purposefully delayed the show until after the ending of WWII so audiences could properly appreciate its message: that people need pipe dreams in order to weather modern life. “The Iceman Cometh would be wrong now. A New York audience would neither see or nor hear its meaning. The pity and tragedy of defensive pipe dreams would be deemed unpatriotic,” O’Neill wrote to his friend Dudley Nichols during wartime. “But after the war is over, I am afraid from present indications that American audiences will understand a lot of The Iceman Cometh only too well.” So, on October 9, 1946 at the Martin Beck Theater, O’Neill made a Broadway return which was twelve years in the making—only to get panned again.

To be fair, not all reviews were harsh: a review in the New York Journal/American was titled “The Iceman Cometh, Seeth, Conquereth,” and critic Joseph Wood Krutch said Iceman was representative of O’Neill’s “depth of passionate sincerity, an intensity of emotional conviction, almost monumentally impressive.” But the play’s four-hour runtime, repetitive dialogue and heavy symbolism irked some critics. Critic Mary McCarthy took O’Neill to task for his inaccurate characterization of drunk people; one reviewer wrote that “someone really ought to buy [O’Neill] a watch.” (Before the run, O’Neill’s friends had told him to shorten the play: his friend Kenneth Macgowan, who worked in Hollywood, said in a letter that O’Neill should “cut it and cut it pretty hard.” O’Neill responded, “I’m sure I won’t agree with you on the advisability of any drastic condensation. Oops!)

Despite the initial mixed reception, Iceman would eventually find its audience: in 1956, ten years after O’Neill’s death, José Quintero directed an Iceman revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre, which was an uncontested hit and established the play in the modern canon. Since then, it’s received many productions and been adapted for film twice. The lesson: don’t think too much about bad reviews! Because even if your show gets panned, Tennessee Williams might write you a note saying he read your play and liked it. And one of your harshest critics might go on to direct a German version of your play to see if he can find the good in it—then determine he still doesn’t like the play, and write an essay about the whole experience called Trying to Like O’Neill. Okay, maybe that’s also bad.

Without further ado, here are some of the worst insults from pans of The Iceman Cometh—and, just like the show they’re panning, they tend to repeat themselves.

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“As drama, for all its brooding, The Iceman was scarcely deeper than a puddle.”

Time

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“Seldom in these theatre-going times has so much been written about so little . . . By the time the fourth act and hour have come around, you feel like echoing Harry Hope’s ‘Get it over, you long-winded bastard!’”

—Robert Garland, New York Journal/American

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 “Writing it for a performance that lasts more than four hours is a sin that rests between Mr. O’Neill and his Maker.”

—Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times

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“To audiences accustomed to the oily virtuosity of George Kaufman, George Abbott, Lillian Hellman, Odets, Saroyan, the return of a playwright who—to be frank—cannot write is a solemn and sentimental occasion.”

—Mary McCarthy

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“[The Iceman Cometh is like] some stern piece of hardware in one of those dusty old-fashioned stores into which no Pyrex dish or herb shelf had yet penetrated . . . ugly, durable, mysteriously utilitarian.”

—Mary McCarthy

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“His intention is symbolic and philosophical, but unfortunately you cannot write Platonic dialogues in the style of Casey at the Bat.”

—Mary McCarthy (she did not like this play)

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“One of O’Neill’s elusive virtues [is] the ability to construct out of pieces of ponderous bad writing a longish passage that makes a favorable impression. There are some passages of this sort in The Iceman Cometh. Otherwise there is nothing very good about it.”

—Eric Bentley

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“I saw nothing on Broadway this season that was more oppressively dull than The Iceman Cometh . . . As most of the characters represent the same thing, why couldn’t at least half of them be omitted? Would the temptation be too great to omit the other half, too?”

—Eric Bentley

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“I still maintain that O’Neill is no thinker. He is so little a thinker, it is dangerous for him to think. To prove this you have only to look at the fruits of his thinking; his comparatively thoughtless plays are better. For a non-thinker he thinks too much.”

—Eric Bentley (he also really didn’t like the play)

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“Action draggeth, dialogue reeketh, play stinketh.”

—Sterling North

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[h/t John Patrick Diggins, American Theatre, The Eugene O’Neill Review Vol. 20 No. 1, The Eugene O’Neill Review Vol. 42 No. 1, The Kenyon Review Vol. 14 No. 3, The New York Times, Eric Bentley, Modern Drama Vol. 10 No. 3, Literariness]

Richard Gere reading Italo Calvino is peak ASMR.

Katie Yee

October 15, 2021, 12:53pm

Oh, Richard Gere! You undoubtedly know him well from American Gigolo. You loved him in Pretty Woman and swooned over him in Runaway Bride (he knew how Julia Roberts liked her eggs!). You tried really hard to forget him in Autumn in New York. You cried with him in Hachi, but we don’t need to get into that today.

Today, after all, is Italo Calvino’s birthday. And what better way to celebrate than hearing the great Richard Gere read from the opening pages of The Baron in the Trees? As he takes the podium, he jokes that he wishes he could read the novel in Italian, but alas, he cannot. (Shoutout to translator Ann Goldstein!) For context: The Baron in the Trees tells of a young man of noble birth in 18th century Italy who rebels against his family by climbing into a tree and vowing never to come down.

Delightful, no? So pull up a chair, sink into the soothing timbre of Richard Gere’s voice and Italo Calvino’s words, and have a good weekend, friends.

Here’s the shortlist for the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction.

Emily Temple

October 15, 2021, 12:27pm

Today, the Baillie Gifford Prize, the UK’s most prestigious annual prize for nonfiction, announced their 2021 shortlist. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a judging panel on which I’ve felt so invigorated and excited by the shortlist as I have on this Baillie Gifford Prize panel,” said Andrew Holgate, this year’s chair of judges. “Every one of these books is an enveloping read. There’s attack here, deep learning, challenge, keen analysis and revelation, but above all, there is outstanding storytelling, and deep pleasure to be had in reading all six of the books on this list.”

The winning writer, who will take home £50,000, will be announced on Tuesday, November 16. Until then, here’s the shortlist:

Cal Flyn, Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape
Harald Jähner, translated by Shaun Whiteside, Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945–1955
Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Kei Miller, Things I Have Withheld
John Preston, Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell
Lea Ypi, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History