Posts by: Serena Candelaria

Art That Goes Unseen

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Vivian Maier has been called one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th century, but during her lifetime, she worked as a nanny and kept her photography on rolls of film that went undeveloped. Over at The Millions, Janet Potter raises questions about Maier’s decision to keep her artwork to herself: “Why is someone who takes so many photos a nanny?

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Learning from Books that Are Supposedly Terrible

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As any lover of literature might tell you, all books are not created equal. But this does not mean that there is nothing to be gained from novels that are, in many ways, flawed. Over at the New York Timeswriters Leslie Jamison and James Parker discuss “supposedly terrible books that left a lasting impression”:

I will always love Go Ask Alice for the very qualities that make it an aesthetic failure.

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Few Ever Venture As Far As the Border

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Since I was old enough to set out on my own I have been an avid traveler. I turned this obsession into a profession seven years ago when I became a foreign correspondent for the New York Times

Nicolas Kulish, the East Africa correspondent for the New York Times, co-authored a book on Aribet Heim, “a Nazi concentration camp doctor who fled postwar justice in Germany.” In order to put together a book that, in many ways, is a biography, Kulish spent over half a decade traveling through Denmark, Austria, Egypt, Morocco, and Germany.

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Don’t Write for the Money

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At a 2011 panel discussion, Erin Hosier, a writer and literary agent, said that she wrote for the money. She had just gotten a book deal to write a personal memoir, and was looking forward to receiving her advance. In a recent interview with The Millions, Hosier says she assumed that the memoir “would just burst forth from [her] hands.” In 2014, Hosier’s memoir is still forthcoming.

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Meet the Internet Bard

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Steven Roggenbuck has been producing poetry “that is made, distributed, and viewed almost exclusively on the Web” since 2010. In this article in the New Yorker, Kenneth Goldsmith calls Roggenbuck’s videos, with their shaky camerawork and rough jump cuts, “meticulously crafted infomercials for poetry.”

While some might question Roggenbuck’s improvised style, Goldsmith writes, “This type of writing has deep roots, extending back to the cosmological visions of William Blake, through the direct observation poems of the Imagists, the anti-art absurdities of Dada, and the nutty playfulness of Surrealism…”

Reflecting on his experiences as an Internet poet, Roggenbuck said, “This is the dream for poets, to be a poet when the Internet exists.

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Don’t Let the Other Voices Get Too Loud

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Before Leslie Jamison was a New York Times bestseller, she was a student at Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In an interview with The Millions, Jamison said she has “a lot of faith and trust in the workshop process,” but this doesn’t mean she believes that the workshop process doesn’t come with its own set of limitations.

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Our Voices Are Voices Too

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In the 1990s, Junot Diaz enrolled in an MFA program where there was silence when it came to critical discussions of racial identity. As Diaz writes in the New Yorker, “Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that ‘race discussions’ were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.” In this sentiment, there was a refusal to truly acknowledge the lives and cultures of certain groups of people.

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Plunge Into the Dark with Open Eyes

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Terrifying though the unknown may seem, there are benefits to plunging into the murky waters of uncertainty. In an essay featured in the New YorkerRebecca Solnit writes, “It’s the job of writers and explorers to see more, to travel light when it comes to preconception, to go into the dark with their eyes open.”

There is so much we don’t know, and to write truthfully about a life…is to engage repeatedly with those patches of darkness…those places of unknowing.

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Like, Considering the Other Side

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Critics might believe that “like” has infiltrated and degraded American English, but John McWhorter argues just the contrary. McWhorter claims that “like” is not a marker of the downfall of spoken language, but instead, a sign of its “growing sophistication.” He explains that “like” is not necessarily a sign of hesitation and indecision; it can be used to signify consideration.

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A Great Escape

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I came from, not a small town, but basically not a very interesting place…So it was very important for me not to rebel but simply to get away, to go away.

Travel writing doesn’t have to be lackluster. It can be smart and a pleasure to read, a form of literature in its own right, as Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuściński, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan Morris demonstrate in their work. 

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Absent Characters

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People of color have been largely excluded from children’s literature. Of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 93 featured black characters. In his essay, “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature,” Christopher Myers speaks out against the trend of allowing members of certain racial groups to go unseen because of the color of their skin.

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