Great set of reviews in this month’s Harper’s. Particularly interesting was the review of Marisa Galvez’s new Songbook, which traces the transition of our modern conception of poetry out of the medieval troubadour tradition. I’m fascinated by the way literature, as a category, displays radically different forms throughout history, and have always been curious how, or if, poetry became stripped of song.
Maybe even more interesting is Elijah Wald’s The Dozens: A History of Raps Mama, which traces the stylized insults of the dozens as it relates to the blues, anthropology, &c. Joshua Cohen, the reviewer, highlights an interesting early article from American Imago, Freud’s journal, and the first issue in its new, American instantiation. The epigraph of the book gives the best clue to the dozens character:
I don’t ply the dozens, the dozens ain’t my game,
But the way I fuck your mother is a god damn shame.