The New Inquiry is proud to announce that Reanimation Library, the project of our contributor and friend Andrew Beccone, will be temporarily relocated to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with the Print/Out exhibition, part of Print Studio from January 23 until March 9.
Join us for the Library’s opening reception on Thursday, February 2, 6:00-9:00p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Reserve tickets here.
“I’m sure that you have read that arresting little story from the pen of Washington Irving entitled Rip Van Winkle. The thing that we usually remember about this story is that Rip Van Winkle slept 20 years. But there is another point in that story that is almost always completely overlooked: it was a sign on the inn in the little town on the Hudson from which Rip went up into the mountain for his long sleep. When he went up, the sign had a picture of King George III of England. When he came down, years later, the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first president of the United States. When Rip looked up at the picture of George Washington, he was completely lost; he knew not who he was. This reveals to us that the most striking fact about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not that he slept 20 years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up on the mountain, a great revolution was taking place in the world – indeed, a revolution which would, at points, change the course of history. And Rip Van Winkle knew nothing about it; he was asleep.
Unless you’ve avoided all sports news since Thanksgiving, you’ve probably heard the name Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback and evangelical Christian who likes to thank his lord and savior Jesus Christ for winning football games. Despite his awkward throwing motion and his dismal stats, Tebow still led his team to six “miraculous” comebacks, including completing an unlikely 80-yard pass in the first seconds of overtime to beat the favored Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game last week. Already controversial from his college days — his painting John 3:16 in his eyeblack prompted the NCAA to ban the practice — and from a Focus on the Family-sponsored anti-abortion ad that ran during the 2010 Super Bowl, Tebow’s eagerness to talk about his faith as much as win games has made him a touchstone for a debate about the role of religion in sports. “Tebowing” has even become a verb, describing the act of dropping to one knee and touching one’s forehead in apparent praise of God as Tebow frequently does.
With its focus on a destabilized European government, currency manipulation, and the frailty of technocracy, Georges Simenon’s novella The President seems a surprisingly timely book, especially considering it was originally published more than 50 years ago. The scene in which Simenon describes various ministers meeting at a country retreat to decide the fate of the franc in the midst of a financial crisis could easily be taken for a fictionalized rendering of any number of the E.U.’s serial efforts to save to the euro. “After the disastrous experiments made by previous governments, which had lived from day to day, robbing Peter to pay Paul, the only solution was a large-scale devaluation…”
But the novella also explores the timeless theme of the pettiness engendered by power and the cumulative personal sacrifices it necessarily compels. Simenon, whose attitude toward writing was something like ordinary people’s attitude toward breathing, seems to have known something about pettiness and certainly about compulsion. In a 2007 Bookforum profile, Luc Sante summarizes some of the highlights of Simenon’s prolific career: his anti-Semitic journalism, his boasting about sleeping with thousands of prostitutes, his becoming a collaborator during the Vichy regime, his ego-driven feuds with publishing houses, and so on. Sante suggests Simenon was one of those writers “whose finer qualities have been siphoned off into their books,” which means, considering the hundreds of novels he wrote, he might have been an extraordinarily fine man.