Robbins’ first book of poems, Alien vs. Predator (2012), captured a large audience with its young, fresh voice rich in nuance, melancholy, and audacity. His second title possesses even more attitude, more self-deprecation, more wisdom. The book is rock ’n’ roll, political and not, timely, and lyrical. These 36 poems reveal Robbins’ critical eye as he takes in the peripheral and delivers tough revelations. “Sonnets to Edward Snowden,” which addresses the complex query “Who is the United States?”, is a standout.
I return to certain passages in my favorite reviews — and not only book reviews — as if they were poems: Manny Farber describing John Wayne as “focusing only on a tiny present area, nibbling at it with engaging professionalism and a hipster sense of how to sit in a chair leaned against the wall”; Robert Christgau asking of Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Why do I believe this Nashville liberal showers three times a day and doesn’t think sex is the right place to get your face wet?”
Janet Malcolm can write. Yes she can. She wrote about some artists & stuff. I reviewed what she wrote here. I quoted my sister’s email without telling her. I like art. It’s so much like snow.
I writ about language usage, its discontents, style manuals, & the fascist inside me here. Let us go then, you & I.
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Renata Adler! Speedboat! I review! Please subscribe to Printers Row so I can keep my job!
Reviewed Barthes’s Mythologies for the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row.
And then I wrote about religion for the Tribune, link here, xoxo:
Speaking of which, while everyone’s being so clever about Ratzinger, let’s not forget that, whatever else he may be, he’s a first-rate intellect. His Introduction to Christianity is well worth reading, no matter yr beliefs:
Faith is located in the act of conversion, in the turn of one’s being from worship of the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible. The phrase “I believe” could here be literally translated by “I hand myself over to”, “I assent to”. In the sense of the Creed, and by origin, faith is not a recitation of doctrines, an acceptance of theories about things of which in themselves one knows nothing and therefore asserts something all the louder; it signifies an all-encompassing movement of human existence; to use Heidegger’s language, one could say that it signifies an “about-turn” by the whole person that from then on constantly structures one’s existence. In the procedure of the threefold renunciation and the threefold assent, linked as it is with the thrice-repeated symbolization of resurrection to new life, the true nature of faith or belief is clearly illustrated: it is a conversion, an about-turn, a shift of being.
Alien vs. Predator reviewed in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review
Swoon. Swoon. Swan. Swan. Hummingbird. Hovercraft. Kraftwerk. Seals & Croft.
It’s in his rhymes — polysyllabic, serial, audacious — that Robbins most resembles an M.C., and most distinguishes himself from other poets. He seems at least as interested in arranging sequences of identical vowel sounds as he is in getting consonants to agree. When he pairs “Beckett” with “cricket,” he sounds like Paul Muldoon, but when he rhymes “Parkinson’s,” “Arkansas” and “dark clicks on,” he’s channeling Jay-Z.