Max Ritvo passed away on August 23, 2016. Earlier this summer, he spoke with Sarah Blake about his debut collection Four Reincarnations, writing with and about cancer, and how language is a game. ...more
Married authors Anne Raeff and Lori Ostlund, both winners of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, discuss their craft, their process, and the way they negotiate the give and take involved in sharing a vocation. ...more
To lift the censorship, degradation, and foreclosure of girls’ fantasies, we may have to investigate the gendered limitations on how we think about early loves, impulses, celebrity crushes, and maybe, sexually stirring gentleman pirates....more
At The Millions, J.P. Smith describes the singular effect that Marcel Proust has had on his growth as a writer:
This isn’t a rambling, stream-of-consciousness book of memories lost and found; it’s a novel with a subtle and solid architecture, where in its last volume, Time Regained, the shape of the work comes finally into focus.
More and more, book publishers are turning to data studies and algorithms to predict which kinds of books will sell. Susanne Althof, in a piece for WIRED, interrogates the wisdom of such an approach, speaking with people in the industry who worry it will compromise the diversity of books being put out and the tech leaders who insist that this is simply the future:
What Archer and Jockers have done is just one part of a larger movement in the publishing industry to replace gut instinct and wishful thinking with data.
My sister wrote and published a memoir about our childhood. It’s a good book, and I’m proud of her. It has won awards, and put her in demand on a national speaking circuit. Am I jealous of my little sister? Yep. She’s an engineer by training; I was the artist in the family. By rights, I should be the “successful” writer. (more…)
Yo La Tengo is releasing another series of totally destroyed versions of covers from their annual performances at WFMU’s fundraiser. The compilation, Murder in the Second Degree, is a follow-up to the band’s 2006 release Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics, and like its predecessor the liner notes are vague, replaced by a promise that “there are endless ways to ruin a song”:
For the last 20 years (and counting), Yo La Tengo, accompanied by cub reporter Bruce Bennett, have performed live on WFMU during their fundraising Marathon, and in return for listeners’ pledges of support, we have attempted to play their requests, with no prior knowledge of what those requests will be, and without utilizing any of the many web sites that provide lyrics and chords. We rely instead on a lifetime of listening and the forgiveness of our audience. (more…)
This week (or month) in short fiction (and poetry), it’s National Translation Month! Each September, the National Translation Month (NTM) initiative, started in 2013, celebrates literary works in translation and promotes cross-cultural readership with offerings of exciting new translations on its website. The selections are released throughout the month and so far include poetry from the ancient Latin to contemporary Hausa, fiction from China and Mexico, and even a visit inside an Italian art studio. One featured work is from Mexican poet and novelist Daniel Saldaña París, whose novel Among Strange Victims, translated by Christina MacSweeney (the same translator who brought us Valeria Luiselli), came out from Coffee House Press this summer. París’s short story “Piñata,” also translated from the Spanish by MacSweeney, is a tale of one summer in Madrid, of love and sex, of one powerful woman and her terrifying piñata. (more…)
Steinbeck’s plea here so closely mirrors the structure of the modern political correctness apology, he may well have invented the template. First, he asserts his sympathy and allegiance to his subject, then defends why he told the story in the first place, explaining his intentions and the book’s aesthetic merit. Then, he switches gears by saying he was irresponsible in his presentation, and leaves us with the assurance he’s changed his perspective. Now, Steinbeck might have said, I am woke.
In October, we’re doing something in our Poetry Book Club that we’ve never done before. We’re featuring a book that will be available to the general public at the time we discuss it, and we’re doing it because the book we want to read is Max Ritvo’s Four Reincarnations.(more…)
Friday 9/23: Join the Bitter Women Book Club at City Lit Books as they discuss The Sundial by Shirley Jackson! 6:30 p.m., free.
Julie Tarney reads from her book My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass. Women & Children First, 7:30 p.m., free.
Saturday 9/24: Head to City Lit Books for a reading by Cynthia Gallaher, author of Frugal Poets’ Guide to Life: How to live a poetic life, even if you aren’t a poet. Gallaher will be joined by Anna Brown, Terry Jacobus, and David Gecic. 5 p.m., free.
Move poetry outside of its context. Find a way to protest. Bring it to students in classrooms, in book clubs, in auditoriums, in Gender Studies offices, in American Studies syllabi, in Rhetoric and Composition discussions, in Media courses. Then move it further. To shelters and community centers, to prisons and protests.
Last week, Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress, making her the first woman and the first African-American in the position. Hayden talked with Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour about the challenges of her new position, and her favorite children’s book, Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli, a story about a young girl who experiences racial discrimination. Anne Azzi Davenport reports on the interview and gives us some fun facts about our new Librarian-in-Chief.
Over at Electric Literature, Ryan Chapman interviews Teddy Wayne, whose third novel, Loner, seems to effortlessly blow by the clichés of the campus novel: as Ryan calls it, “the writer’s equivalent of the pop ballad.” Wayne begins by citing “non-campus” novels as influences—The Talented Mr. Riply, Lolita, Notes from Underground—and he’s clearly transcended college culture to get at entitlement culture and class more broadly. High praise from Chapman, “We have to tip-toe around the plot, since the ending is a forehead-slapper that makes one want to immediately grab the nearest bystander, form an impromptu book club, and debate/discuss/rend garments.”
Michel’le’s upcoming biopic Surviving Compton creates a dialogue with the story told by Straight Outta Compton, which notably failed to portray the roles of the women who helped grow N.W.A. and Ruthless Records. When asked why she believes her story was omitted from the Straight Outta Compton narrative, Michel’le indicated she felt no surprise: “Why would Dre put me in it… If they start from where they start from, I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat up and told to sit down and shut up.”
Surviving Compton deals heavily with the abusive relationship between Dr. Dre and Michel’le as it developed alongside the label’s growing success. Watch a trailer for the biopic, which will be released on Lifetime this October, after the jump. (more…)
Loyalty seems to have no payoff for fans of every and any book that has ever had a sequel, because these next installments almost always disappoint—but why does it have to be this way? For Cultured Vultures, Nat Wassell gives a few examples of flaccid sequels and continuations; discusses responsibility from the author, publisher, and even reader; and argues for the reader’s right to demand better material from publishers, who seem to be side-sweeping both loyal fans and unsuspecting authors aside for the next marketing scheme.
We’re getting ready to send out our next Letter in the Mail, and it’s from Chloe Caldwell! While cat-sitting and stressing about where to find an envelope and a stamp, Chloe writes to us on stolen paper about her life right now.