November 16, 2010

The new New Republic is as good as the old New Republic


Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad

The New Republic‘s literary website, The Book, is a fantastic trove of more than just great reviews, or even reviews of reviews (see Ruth Franklin‘s take-down of Kathryn Harrison‘s take-down of Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary). Take, for example, this gem from their archives: A 1918 statement released by Joseph Conrad when someone accused him of being Jewish:

I imagine that —— called me a Jew in his publication as a manner of insult and in the hope of causing me extreme annoyance.

But I don’t feel annoyed in the least. Had I been an Israelite I would never have denied being a member of a race occupying such a unique place in the religious history of mankind. I send you this disclaimer simply in the interest of truth.

He goes on to document the fact — a bit of the old methinks-he-doth-protest-too-much, perhaps, but deftly done, and the charmingly casual prose from the strict author of Heart of Darkness reveals a new not-so-dark heart.

Not to mention a website well worth your time.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives