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The Next Best Thing

Pinsky at the Poetry Center

- By Michael Thurston

Some unfortunates among you might know Robert Pinsky from one of two contexts. Perhaps you caught the Simpsons episode in which Lisa masquerades as a precocious college student, an episode in which Robert Pinsky, as “Robert Pinsky,” makes a memorable appearance. Where Jasper Johns, in his guest shot on the show, gets only the word “Yoink!” and where Thomas Pynchon gets only a brief self-referential line, Pinsky gets an enthusiastic introduction as “the Tony Danza of the AB stanza,” gets to read part of “Impossible to Tell,” gets cheered on by shirtless students with Basho’s name spelled out on their chests, and gets to ask, as his final line, whether Lisa has put in for the pizza.

More likely, because this is a...

The Next Best Thing

Listening to Mary

- By Jim Hicks

Early on, in the 1985 film that arguably inaugurated Jean-Luc Godard's late-period work, we watch, for much longer than we expect to, a single person on a crowded sidewalk. Our view, or that of the camera, is from a nearby rooftop—surveillance in an etymological sense. At a certain point as I recall, the voiceover comments: “If you look at anyone closely enough, or long enough, you'll be more or less certain that the person under observation is insane.” (When I first saw this film, I myself was living in Paris, and remember thinking, “Anyone? Or do they have to be French?”) In a documentary film by Wim Wenders a few years earlier—a sequence of monologues by various famous directors at...

The Next Best Thing

The Next Best Thing: Christine Vachon

- By Alexandra Keller

Editor’s Note: This post inaugurates a new MR blog series, where we share online introductions given at guest appearances by some of our favorite speakers, writers, artists, and thinkers. Intros are, by definition, ephemeral, but that doesn’t mean they always should be. You’ve all heard great ones, the sort that don’t try to one-up the main event, yet somehow quickly manage to inform, evoke, and celebrate the person you’ve come to hear. With “The Next Best Thing,” of course, you’ll just be reading; you’ll have to wait for another occasion for actual star-gazing. But at least you’ll know who to come out and see, the next time they’re in town.


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