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Odes to an Older World, With Cameos by Cézanne and Hawthorne

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THE BAR AT TWILIGHT: Tales, by Frederic Tuten


In “Lives of the Artists,” a brief story in Frederic Tuten’s engrossing new assortment, a pair goes to see Jean-Luc Godard’s “Bande à Half,” which contains a dance sequence that breaks in unexpectedly, “like a flowerpot tossed from a cloud.”

A flowerpot tossed from a cloud can be a great way to explain the pleasures of “The Bar at Twilight,” which incorporates appearances by artists and writers equivalent to Delacroix, Montaigne, Hawthorne, Melville, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne and van Gogh.

This isn’t shocking coming from Tuten, who, at 85, has had an extended and distinguished profession not simply as a fiction author however as an artwork and movie critic. Lots of the tales are set in Europe, and there’s a robust vein of Francophilia that runs by these pages. Characters who’ve by no means realized French all of the sudden begin to converse “that sex-soaked language the place a noun seems like a flirtation.” Even horses break into it, in addition to gorillas, who “beat their chests and cursed in gutter French.”

Readers in search of the consolations of extra conventional narrative will discover a few gems. “Winter, 1965” is a beautiful ode to a misplaced New York Metropolis and to a literary world the place brief tales had been mailed in manila envelopes and a narrative plucked from the slush pile at a small journal might set a author on the trail to fame. The protagonist, a younger author who has had a narrative accepted by Partisan Assessment, imagines himself about to be ushered into the corporate of Saul Bellow, Mary McCarthy and Robert Lowell, solely to find that his story isn’t within the problem it was purported to be in and is unlikely to be revealed in any respect.

“The Restaurant. The Live performance. The Bar. The Mattress. Le Petit Déjeuner” takes place in additional modern occasions (somebody has a cellphone), nevertheless it, too, evokes an older, misplaced New York, the place the bartenders on the Carlyle scolded you for necking and muggers on Fifth Avenue referred to as you “sir” as they relieved you of your money. There are hints of Cheever on this story, and although the dialogue will be snappy and arch (“You could have a brand new fragrance?” “Sure, do you prefer it?” “Find it irresistible. Like rags soaked in a dying man’s urine.” “That good?” “Like a sewer overflow in Fez.” “Don’t flatter”), what emerges is a bittersweet portrait of a wedding and a metropolis which have survived bodily and psychic ravages.

The opposite tales are much less conventional, each narratively and domestically. There are husbands and wives, however whether or not they stay with one another appears immaterial to them. What drives them is the want for solitude (most of the characters have cats — firm, as one character places it, that’s “the identical as being alone”) and a love of artwork. One character praises Cézanne for having skipped his mom’s funeral to be able to paint, and one other loves gardens due to Proust however feels no want to go to them as a result of Proust has already taken him there. Just like the centaurs who characteristic in one of many tales and whose “heads and ideas are excessive as much as the dreamy stars” whereas their rears preserve them on the bottom, Tuten’s people are half on earth, half within the ether, and sometimes the ether wins out.

Credit score…Mark Segal

This will result in a sure emotional abstraction, however these tales’ virtues greater than compensate. Tuten’s prose is all the time very important, typically dazzling: “A helicopter hung, like a mosquito, within the icy membrane of the sky.” A girl’s head emerges from her housecoat “like a white bean squeezed from its pod.” Work are turned to the wall “like punished college students.” Sparrows sing “their besotted serenade.” Hearth hoses quiver “like flattened pythons.” A girl’s purchasing luggage, coated in snow, are “child igloos.”

The final entry within the assortment is a brief essay, half paean to books and to a lifetime of studying, half aesthetic manifesto. In it, Tuten has some selection phrases for “likable” or “relatable” protagonists, “the anticipated staples of standard-issue fiction,” and he holds up Djuna Barnes’s “Nightwood” as a mannequin for the way in which it “sidesteps the foundations of normative — and predictable — fiction.”

Tuten might simply be speaking about his personal work. “The Bar at Twilight” is neither normative nor predictable, and it bears the agency impress of the soul.


THE BAR AT TWILIGHT: Tales | By Frederic Tuten | 282 pp. | Bellevue Literary Press | Paper, $17.99


Joshua Henkin’s most up-to-date novel, “Morningside Heights,” is out in paperback. He directs and teaches within the M.F.A. program in fiction writing at Brooklyn School.

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How Would Your Life Change if You Knew When It Would End?

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THE MEASURE, by Nikki Erlick


We’re all going to die. Most of us don’t know when. However what if we did know? What if we have been informed the 12 months, the month, even the day? How would that change our lives?

These questions drive Nikki Erlick’s debut novel, “The Measure,” which weighs Emerson’s declare that “it’s not the size of life, however the depth of life” that issues.

One morning, adults world wide discover on their doorstep (or outdoors their tent, or subsequent to their shelter mattress) a field labeled with their title. Inside is a bit of string whose size, it seems, represents their life span. Quick strings, lengthy strings, medium strings — each particular person over 21 receives one, delivered in unusual containers that materialize out of nowhere. Because the weeks go by and knowledge is gathered, scientists declare the strings to be correct in forecasting how lengthy their recipients will reside. Some folks select to take a look at their strings; others throw the unopened bins off bridges, preferring to not know the way a lot time they’ve left.

The place do the bins come from? Why can’t anybody see them being delivered? Why have been they despatched within the first place? Erlick is much less eager about technicalities than within the strings’ influence on her characters. Hank, an E.R. physician whose life is spent dealing with different folks’s deaths, should confront his personal. In a romance the place one string is far shorter than the opposite, Nina and Maura debate whether or not to marry and have youngsters. Aimless younger Jack finds route when his uncle, a ruthlessly formidable presidential candidate, begins spouting incendiary rhetoric towards folks with brief strings. Two strangers, discovering themselves unintended pen-pals, forge an intimacy that can have huge penalties. Prejudice towards short-stringers features traction — their despair is seen as harmful — whereas Jack’s uncle and different politicians make hay from the lengthy/brief divide, and a weekly help group for short-stringers turns into a makeshift household.

“The Measure” offers us the views of a number of characters, alternating viewpoints at a brisk, staccato clip. Many chapters are solely a web page or two lengthy. Essentially the most intriguing story line belongs to Amie and Ben, strangers who start leaving one another nameless letters within the classroom the place she teaches by day and he attends a short-stringer help group by evening. Their tender, considerate notes are a welcome counterpoint to the novel’s speedy tempo.

Latest American fiction is wealthy with dystopian explorations of real-life horrors: racist violence (Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s “Friday Black”), poisonous patriarchy (Jessamine Chan’s “The Faculty for Good Moms”) and local weather disaster (Omar El Akkad’s “American Battle”), to call only a few. “The Measure,” in distinction, stays firmly within the consolation of the imaginary. Though it’s set in an in any other case acquainted present-day America, the strings successfully develop into the solely drawback, eclipsing sociopolitical points to such a level that String World begins to look, effectively, not so unhealthy. Erlick writes, “A minimum of the long run they’d been doled appeared extra promising than these on the cabinets in entrance of Amie, during which ladies’s our bodies have been stripped solely to their reproductive capacities and kids murdered one another on tv on the authorities’s behest.” She goes on, “If these have been the alternate options, Amie thought, maybe they need to really feel fortunate that the strings have been all they received.”

With Roe v. Wade now overturned, and kids with semiautomatic rifles mass-murdering different youngsters, readers of “The Measure” are residing within the futures on the cabinets. Regardless of its chilling premise, Erlick’s novel is an escape from — relatively than a window into — our personal terrifying actuality.


Leni Zumas’s newest ebook is “Crimson Clocks.”


THE MEASURE, by Nikki Erlick | 368 pp. | William Morrow & Firm | $28.99

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Who Is Harmony Tan, the Player Who Beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon?

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The matchup appeared lopsided on paper.

Serena Williams, probably the best tennis participant ever and the winner of probably the most Grand Slam singles titles within the Open Period, matched up with Concord Tan, No. 115 on the earth, within the first spherical of Wimbledon.

Tan, taking part in in her first Wimbledon, had not superior additional than the second spherical in any of her six earlier appearances at a significant. Even Tan admitted in her on-court interview that she was “actually scared” upon seeing that she was scheduled to face Williams and had hoped she may win one or two video games Tuesday.

Williams was requested in a information convention forward of the match if she was dissatisfied that she didn’t draw a tougher opponent.

“Each match is tough; each match,” stated Williams, who was competing in her first singles match on tour since tearing a hamstring in final yr’s opening spherical of Wimbledon and retiring from the match. “You possibly can’t underestimate anybody or any match.”

Tan, 24, proved Williams’s phrases true, spoiling her return to tennis and quest for a record-tying twenty fourth Grand Slam singles title. Tan defeated Williams, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7). For Williams, 40, the loss was the second of her profession within the first spherical of Wimbledon.

Tan, a Paris native with Cambodian and Vietnamese dad and mom, stated she watched Williams typically whereas rising up. Tan turned skilled when she was simply 14, however this was her first matchup towards Williams, and she or he had by no means confronted a participant with profession accomplishments even approaching these of Williams.

The best-ranked participant she has confronted is Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who was No. 17 on the earth on the time of their matchup at this yr’s Australian Open. Tan retired within the third set of the match after struggling an damage.

For this matchup with Williams, Tan had a slight benefit within the type of her coach, Nathalie Tauziat.

Tauziat, the 1998 Wimbledon girls’s singles runner-up, who was ranked as excessive as No. 3 on the earth, confronted Williams 3 times, beating her as soon as on the Paris Open last in 2000. Tan didn’t point out in her post-match interview whether or not or not Tauziat gave her particular pointers primarily based on her expertise towards Williams. Nonetheless, she thanked Tauziat for supporting her after the win.

“I’m actually shocked at the moment,” Tan stated of her win within the on-court interview.

She could have the chance to advance previous the second spherical in a Grand Slam match for the primary time in her profession when she faces Sara Sorribes Tormo, a Spaniard seeded thirty second. The 2 confronted one another earlier this yr in Monterrey, Mexico, with Tan dropping, 6-2, 6-2.

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Naked No More: A TV Rodent Teaches Families About Tolerance

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Mo Willems’s image books usually function dedicated nonconformists — not the human type, however the animal selection. During the last twenty years, he has invented a pigeon that’s decided to drive a bus, a pig that desires to fly and a cookie-baking dinosaur that doesn’t care that she’s extinct. Now, considered one of Willems’s most gently adventurous creatures is about to shed its inhibitions on tv.

That intrepid soul is Wilbur, the toothy protagonist of “Bare Mole Rat Will get Dressed: The Underground Rock Expertise,” a particular that begins streaming on HBO Max on Thursday. (It should air on Cartoon Community subsequent yr.) A rock opera for households, this animated comedy hinges on Wilbur’s discovery of tiny clothes floating down like manna — or relatively males’s put on — from heaven, and the scandal that follows his speedy evolution from bare mole rat to natty garments horse.

The tv particular adapts not solely Willems’s 2009 greatest vendor, “Bare Mole Rat Will get Dressed,” but in addition “Bare Mole Rat Will get Dressed: The Rock Expertise,” a stage musical model that debuted in 2018 and remains to be enjoying in theaters. However in any leisure incarnation, this oddball species, whose hairlessness is just one of its uncommon attributes, doesn’t have to fret about equally themed competitors.

“It’s the identical factor with a pigeon,” Willems, who lives in Northampton, Mass., mentioned in a telephone interview. “No one desires to make a e book a couple of soiled city chicken. In order that territory is yours, proper? All people else is doing sloppy bunnies and pleased bears.”

So, he added, “I really like the concept that is so outrageous that it turns into elegant.”

Having begun as an Emmy-winning author and animator for “Sesame Avenue,” Willems, 54, is now considered one of his technology’s most acclaimed youngsters’s authors and illustrators, along with his papers archived at Yale and two solo museum retrospectives to his credit score. Admirers evaluate him to titans like Dr. Seuss and Willems’s personal idol, Charles M. Schulz. (Willems drew “Bare Mole Rat Will get Dressed” with a nib from considered one of Schulz’s pens, given to him by the cartoonist’s widow, Jeannie Schulz.)

In Willems’s work, “you may have the sweetness of Fred Rogers and you’ve got the hilarity of Dr. Seuss,” Amy Friedman, the pinnacle of programming for Cartoon Community and HBO Max Youngsters & Household, mentioned in a telephone interview. However, she added: “He doesn’t must be anyone else. He’s simply Mo.”

Friedman’s workforce needed to embrace that singular imaginative and prescient when it approached Willems about working collectively. Though HBO Max already streams brief movies based mostly on Willems’s work and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime!,” a live-action sketch comedy particular, “Bare Mole Rat” is each their first artistic collaboration and the primary hourlong animated tv manufacturing that considered one of his books has impressed.

As Willems defined it, “Bare Mole Rat” explores themes — self-acceptance, tolerance, celebrating others’ passions — that relate on to his personal expertise, each as a cartooning-obsessed youngster of Dutch immigrants and because the father or mother of a 21-year-old son, Trix, who’s transgender. This isn’t, he emphasised, “a coming-out story” — despite the fact that Wilbur shocks his friends by revealing his fashion-forward needs — however an “accepting-in story,” he mentioned.

“The individuals round Wilbur, the mole rats round Wilbur, should do the work,” Willems mentioned. Within the TV particular, the plot is as a lot about how Wilbur’s greatest buddies — they’re in a band with him known as the Mole-ing Stones — grapple with Wilbur’s new id as it’s about his personal self-discovery.

And grapple they do, at peak quantity and emotion. Anybody who’s accustomed to youngsters’s tv is aware of {that a} rock opera is about as frequent as a unadorned mole rat in a purple tuxedo. However Deborah Wicks La Puma, the composer for “Bare Mole Rat” — the stage and TV variations have the identical songs — shares Willems’s enthusiasm for full-on, arena-style, headbanging tunes.

The story “is a little bit subversive,” La Puma mentioned in a telephone dialog. And rock, she added, is “just a bit extra edgy, however completely enjoyable and stuffed with vitality.”

This vitality fills the tv adaptation, which makes use of new preparations, background music (by the composer Keith Horn), extra musicians and a solid with a vocal vary “that allowed us to make the music extra intense,” Willems mentioned.

That depth can be a part of the humor. Jordan Fisher, an alumnus of the Broadway casts of “Hamilton” and “Pricey Evan Hansen,” who voices Wilbur, mentioned he used the lilting vocal patterns of a household buddy’s 11-year-old to develop Wilbur’s speech, which “is sort of affable and goofy,” Fisher famous. However when this nearly cherubic cartoon rat sings, he added, it’s as if “Aerosmith is seeping out.”

Willems, who wrote all of the stage and TV lyrics, acknowledges that younger viewers received’t know bands like Aerosmith or the musical numbers’ different influences, which embody the Who, Coronary heart, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Queen. However that doesn’t trouble the exhibits’ creators.

“One of many issues that we talked about,” La Puma mentioned, was, “‘How can this be sort of a enjoyable rock primer for teenagers?’”

The TV particular can also perform as an amusing primer on artwork historical past. In a single scene, Wilbur’s bandmates drag him into the Moleseum of Artwork, an enormous, Met-like establishment, to show that no self-respecting mole rat has ever worn garments. Right here, an array of masterpieces, together with the Mona Lisa and Botticelli’s “Start of Venus,” all with bare mole rats as topics, come to life digitally to specific their displeasure.

The concept was, “‘How can we flip these songs into music movies?’” mentioned the animator, author and producer identified professionally as Mr. Warburton. (Tom in personal life, he enjoys the formal title as a result of, he mentioned on the telephone, “it sounds so official, and I’m so not official.”) With onstage actors, he added, the visible choices are restricted, however in an animated music video, the sartorially inexperienced Wilbur can handle to sing and dance whereas first placing on a button-down shirt backward and a lilac-colored fedora the wrong way up.

Mr. Warburton, who wrote the TV script with Willems and is, like him, an govt producer of the particular, additionally labored with Oddbot Animation to create an enormous, computer-generated subterranean colony of three-dimensional mole rats — this, in any case, is the “Underground Rock Expertise” and never simply “the Rock Expertise” — that also resemble the creatures in Willems’s unique drawings.

“We needed to have them type of appear like little puppets,” Mr. Warburton mentioned. Whereas computer-generated imagery steadily seems “tremendous clean,” he added, the digital results listed here are nearly like that of stop-motion animation.

In translating the unique materials to tv, the lads, who’re longtime mates, additionally made one scientific correction: The mole rat society is now matriarchal, led not by a grand-pah however a grand-mah, voiced by the venerable actress Carol Kane. They’ve additionally answered a longstanding query: What’s the supply of that floating vogue that so tantalizes Wilbur? (The reply is a spoiler, so no clues right here.)

However maybe most vital, they’ve given the mission sufficient sophistication — it has a working joke about oxymorons — to make it an all-ages viewing expertise, despite the fact that it’s premiering as a part of Cartoonito, HBO Max and Cartoon Community’s preschool programming block.

Willems mentioned he hoped it will encourage not solely household dance events but in addition household conversations about artwork, music and id. “I’d like it if this particular sparked children to see themselves in another way and to behave on it,” he mentioned.

“No matter that’s: ‘I like to attract,’ ‘I like to decorate up,’ ‘I like to bounce,’” he continued. “To have the ability to take no matter their definition that that they had earlier than” and, he mentioned, “add one new one, one thrilling new piece of who they’re.”

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