Novelist Joshua Cohen gives an interview, digital, about his new novel, paper, but also digital, about the Internet, digital, subsuming the novel, even his novel, best on paper, Book of Numbers. ...more
Austin Bunn talks about his new story collection, The Brink, his latest script for a short film, In the Hollow, working in multiple mediums, and why some novels read like early drafts of screenplays. ...more
In Yearbook #2, Alysia Abbott talks about her memoir Fairyland, a storytelling and community project for children of parents who died of AIDS, and how upsetting is can be to pour through old journals. ...more
At the Guardian, author M.O. Walsh tries to account for the global popularity of southern gothic literature. While he attributes much of southern gothic literature’s success to a tradition of oral storytelling, he also suggests that it is the southern novelist’s ability to treat the “grotesque” with empathy that helps to create memorable characters:
Show me a southern gothic novel written by someone who’s not from the south and the odds are that I’ll show you a bad novel. To put it more smartly, there is a difference between writing from the culture and writing about or, at its worst, above it. The southern gothic is, always, from the culture.
Writers, Sontag believed, if they are any good at all, are obliged to try to understand the forces that shape us. They seek to give us a more truthful sense of things, a more nuanced sense of the world we inhabit…They write to help us understand what, for many, eludes understanding.
In light of all that D’Angelo has done and is doing for music and activism, okayplayer. featured a chronicle of Brown Sugar over the years, following the evolution in D’Angelo’s live performance of its material from debut through its soultronic resurrection and the current Second Coming tour. The album first debuted on July 3rd, 1995, and now, twenty years later, D’Angelo continues to push soul and funk without losing site of the legacy he drew Brown Sugar from. Watch a recent video of D’Angelo and The Vanguard playing the titular track “Brown Sugar” after the jump.
We’re sending our next Letter for Kids from Maria Gianferrari! A self-proclaimed bird-nerd, Maria writes to us about all the wildlife she sees around her home in Leesburg, Virginia and while traveling cross-country with her family. She sends lots of pictures of wildlife, birds nests, and even a hummingbird’s nest! Maria’s first picture book Penny & Jelly: The School Show was just released, and we’ll be giving away a signed copy! Keep an eye on the Letters for Kids Facebook page for details.
For Electric Literature, Adalena Kavanagh has a conversation with poet Elisa Gabbert on Google Chat about how to advise white male writers to publish ethically. Their conversation also explores topics related to power structures in the publishing industry, and the implications of white authors writing from the perspective of a different race:
There is a long tradition of male novelists writing female characters, and that doesn’t feel *necessarily* problematic to me. But I’m squeamish about doing it with race. The risk for unexamined appropriation/exploitation seems SO high. Do you have this same sense? Why do you think that is? It must be connected to the feeling that a white woman “identifying as black” is NOTHING like a man identifying as a woman.
While concerns over the accuracy and invasiveness of the technology are important, the primary fear I have is that the technology available today masks a form of gender and racial stereotyping with the scientific authority of genetics.
I don’t know whether it is a hereditary characteristic, but our little family is altogether too prone to lie awake at nights hating ourselves for stupidities—technical or verbal or whatever—and to let careless, cruel remarks fester until they blossom in something like ulcer attacks—I know that during these last days I’ve been fighting an enormous battle with myself.
Brain Pickings dives into Sylvia Plath’s teenage years in her Letters Home, finding the poet’s first “tragic” poem, “I Thought That I Could Not be Hurt,” resulting from an incident involving a ruined pastel drawing. In Plath’s early letters and journals, we find the first shadows of depression creeping on the young poet, and her feelings on them.
Over the holiday weekend, Linton Weeks wrote for NPR’s History Dept. on the critical role of librarians in World Wars I and II. Weeks spoke to Cara Bertram, an archivist for the American Library Association:
The books that did make it into the hands of the troops, she says, boosted morale, provided connections to people back home and offered technical guidance.
She adds that the books from home were therapeutic for those convalescing in hospitals,” helping them to get over physical and emotional pain.” And certain books helped to alleviate homesickness, chase away boredom and provide training to those who wanted to land jobs when they returned home.
Over at Electric Literature, Steve Paulson interviews legendary literary critic James Wood, who comments on a variety of subjects: what makes a good critic; the plight of reading widely in our contemporary age; literature as analogous to religion; genre fiction; his friendship with the aging Saul Bellow. A very lovely interview filled with literary appreciation, and worth checking out.
I’m like an alien in a human body. I come from a different place, a different plane of existence. I can’t explain that other place because I don’t know it in this lifetime, I don’t have memories of it, but I know it is a softer place. I’m not comfortable with life on Earth. This life here feels really harsh and painful. It has felt like torture here a lot of the time.
At The Chronicle of Higher Education, the writer behind @AcademicsSay (better known as “Shit Academics Say”) reveals himself as Nathan Hall, an associate professor at McGill University. In addition to his reveal, Hall discusses how the popular Twitter account allowed him to connect with a much wider community of academics and create wide-ranging participation studies on the psychological stresses and challenges academics face in this professional climate.