We now bring you another edition of Media Monday. There are lots of good books to talk about, so I won't tarry.
Jeanette Winterson reviews Renegade: Henry Miller and the Making of "Tropic of Cancer" by Frederick Turner. Turner is in good company, as none other than George Orwell, Norman Mailer, Kate Millet, and Erica Jong have taken on the subject of Henry Miller and his seminal book (a book that reviewer Winterson calls "so great that it takes the world nearly 30 years to face up to it"). Reporting on such a controversial and brilliant novel almost assures that the key messages will change over time. Winterson notes that "Turner cleverly places Miller in a line of American folklore heroes, real and invented, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Like Huck Finn, Miller the man wants to avoid growing up. Like Mark Twain, Miller the writer wants the flavor and feel of 'brawlers, outlaws, gamblers . . . whores.'” But she feels Turner has ignored the more unsavory parts of Miller and his novel in an effort to create this mythos, particularly the frequent misogyny of Miller's prose and of the time in which he was writing it.
As reviewer, Sarah Wheeler points out in her review of Alec Wilkinson's The Ice Balloon: S. A. Andree and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration, "The history of 19th-century Arctic exploration is gruesome. Ice floes throttle creaky ships, men vanish into the white silence, and the North Pole remains elusive." In other words, people died, and they died grisly deaths. "Then a Swedish aeronaut had a new idea. Approaches by sledge and ship had failed, so why not fly to the pole?" Thus, follows the story of Salomon August Andrée, told by Wilkinson (a New Yorker staffwriter), in a "prose style (that) suits the spare polar landscape, making his occasional poetic touches even more effective. (He describes, for example, the men rowing over the icy sea 'as if already in the afterlife.')"
You can read more about author Alec Wilkinson in this recent interview conducted by our own Neal Thompson.