Sunday, November 1, 2020

Life gives, and then...

     Kanye West ran a two-page advertisement in the New York Times Friday, with a dove on the left hand page and some kind of letter about hope and peace on the right. I read it, wondering if it was some kind of plug for Trump, but it was just gibberish—the general consensus is it has something to do with his supposed presidential campaign. But how it helps West, I cannot say.
     "This must have set him back" I said to my wife.
     This pointless indulgence reminded me of an advertisement I'd seen in the Gray Lady and taken a photo of a few weeks previous: the one that ran after Louise Glück won the Nobel Prize in literature. Here, take a look and tell me if what stood out to me stands out for you:

     I mean, really, could they make the ad any smaller? I took out a ruler and measured: 1/12th of a page, or 1/24th of the ad Kanye West took out for no particular purpose.
     It isn't as if her publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, is a marginal operation. It's a division of Macmillan Publishers, which is part of the gigantic Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, with some $2 billion in annual revenues, making it an even bigger deal than Kanye West, if such as thing is possible.
     I know publishing is on hard times. But still, it isn't as if they hand out the Nobel Prize in Literature every day. The FS&G folks couldn't have heard the news and thought, "Again?! Now we'll have to run another congratulatory ad!" Would a quarter page have wrecked their budget?
     I can't speak for Glück—maybe being a superlative poet puts you beyond such things. But I've read all of her poetry, and she is a very grounded, practical, table-and-chair kind of poet. I can see her scanning the paper for her ad, sighing, looking around as if to find an audience, and saying, "Really?" 
     Though immediately smiling then, because one doesn't succeed as a poet without learning that the world, she has her little jokes, and there is no rose without thorns, no honor given without mitigation, sometimes enough to counterbalance the honor itself, and then some. Life gives, and then takes away. That's the essence of poetry right there.


  1. I wonder if the publisher consulted her for her input. Maybe she doesn't have the outsized ego of mr west and indicated to FS&G she'd prefer something understated. Humility is a fine quality one that mr. West does not seem to possess. Though he's got some damn fine joints.

  2. Nicely observed. And I really like the cover photo. Something from the Botanical Garden?

  3. Here's a pointless thing to question. Plus, it'll probably line me up for a "those who offer corrections are often wrong themselves" award. But, to me, that seems like significantly more than 1/20 of the usable page, as reproduced here.

    Which does nothing to change the gist of the observation. For something of that significance, a larger recognition was certainly called for. It occurred to me, too, that perhaps they decided that understatement was appropriate for a poet, as FME suggests.

    The photo atop the blog of the rose garden at the CBG -- a subtle reinforcement of "there is no rose without thorns," or simply a coincidence, one wonders.

  4. Good eye. I did measure, but then set aside my figures and lost them. I remeasured, and meant 1/12th, not 1/20th. I've corrected it. Thanks.


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