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On the Web Wed Sep 16 2009

1995 & 2000 NBA Winners: Sabbath's Theater & In America

This past week, the National Book Awards remembered two past winners with ties to the University of Chicago.

sabbath's theater.jpgSays Ed Portor, contributor to this year's Best American New Voices anthology, on the 1995 winner, Philip Roth's Sabbath Theater: "Underneath all the sex and bad behavior, Sabbath's Theater is an investigation of grief--inconsolable, unsupportable grief, for the dead, and for oneself. The scene that I can never get out of my head (and I'm not alone in this) is that of Sabbath masturbating on the fresh grave of his lover Drenka, and then finding out to his horror that he's not alone in the practice. It's an outrageous scene, but its porno-slapstick is infused with terrible pain."

in america.jpgOn Susan Sontag's In America, the 2000 winner, Columbia University graduate Elizabeth Yale has this to say: "In America is the story of a woman--a diva--and of the idea that we create ourselves by rebelling against our fate. But of the idealistic immigrants in Sontag's story, it is ultimately only the actress--the paragon of mutability--who truly achieves this self-actualized transformation. For the others, shades of their former selves inexorably seep through. The actress, practiced in performance, can achieve what the rest of us cannot because her life transpires on the stage. Maryna or Marina, the diva has no singular self; she transforms with each rise and fall of the curtain, her identity a costume she dons before every performance. The experience of reading In America is of having an intimate, visceral encounter with an actress in possession of this transformative power, of being seduced by her elusive charisma, and ultimately of being eluded by her."

 
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