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Sunday books: Weschler and representation, Pablo Neruda and more

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Decades of conversations with artists Robert Irwin and David Hockney intertwine in a double-helix meditation on art and creation: David Ulin talks to Lawrence Weschler about his two new books, ‘Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees’ and ‘True to Life.’

At 57, his face still boyish behind a graying beard and glasses, he’s excitable, voluble, riffing and digressing, framing these two books within the supersaturated context of his career. ‘One of the helixes running through my work,’ he explains, ‘was this 30-year project of talking to these two guys.... I’m interested in what it’s like when people or places suddenly catch fire.’ This can be an aesthetic process or it can be political, or, as in the case of ‘Vermeer in Bosnia,’ it can be both. It’s also a pretty good description of Weschler’s own approach to writing, which is, by turns, literary and journalistic, an idiosyncratic mix of the reported and the inferred.

Richard Rayner looks at ‘World’s End,’ Pablo Neruda’s final work, out now in a new bilingual edition. ''World’s End,’ like much Neruda, contains bewildering multitudes,’ Rayner writes. ‘Some poems incite, others console, as the poet — maestro of his own response and impresario of ours — looks inward and out.’

I have taken a kick / from time and it is now a mess, / the sad box of my life / I cannot show people / my collection of shivers: / I felt lonely in a house / riddled with leaks / in a downpour that heard no appeal.

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American revolutionary Mark Rudd, one of the founders of the Weather Underground, writes about past incitements and mistakes in his autobiography, ‘Underground.’ Reviewer Jon Wiener finds that ‘Rudd’s historical judgments are, to use a phrase from the era, ‘right on.’'

Much of what the Weathermen did had the opposite effect of what we intended. We de-organized SDS while we claimed we were making it stronger; we isolated ourselves from our friends and allies as we helped split the larger antiwar movement around the issue of violence. In general, we played into the hands of the FBI.... We might as well have been on their payroll.

Before there was Jack Lalanne, there was Bernarr Macfadden. The new biography ‘Mr. America: How Muscular Millionaire Bernarr Macfadden Transformed the Nation Through Sex, Salad, and the Ultimate Starvation Diet’ by Mark Adams is an ‘entertaining, enlightening read,’ according to reviewer David Davis. Or if you’d rather skip the healthy lifestyle, Andrei Codrescu’s ‘The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess’ might be the kind of absurdist self-help manual that’s exactly your speed. And there’s even more in the Sunday Books pages.

—Carolyn Kellogg


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