It’s not easy being a literary star. From the existential crises that comes from fame to the struggle to follow up a critically acclaimed first novel, becoming “a writer” for life involves a lot more than publishing a bestseller. Read Lev Grossman’s fascinating bio for TIME Magazine on what Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) has been up to: everything from divorce, leaving a major television project, to taking nearly eleven years to write his third novel.
The staff at Poets & Writers put out a call to writers—“some of our most thoughtful and articulate citizens”—to share their perspectives on important issues for the next US president. Fifty writers weigh in, including Javier Zamora, Mira Ptacin, and Ocean Vuong. Rita Dove writes:
“If we are ever to attain our forefathers’ aspirations for ‘a more perfect union,’ educating our young—not only in the sciences, but also the arts—cannot, dare not, be neglected. If our children are unable to say what they mean, no one will know how they feel; if they cannot imagine different worlds, they are stumbling through a darkness made all the more sinister by its lack of reference points.”
On NPR’s All Things Considered, Petra Mayer offers advice to those who she describes as the “unpunished” villains of literature (O’Brien from Orwell’s 1984, X-Men’s Magneto, Milton’s Satan): win over the audience with your cause and relatable personal faults, and you’ll not only survive to the last page but maybe also land a spot in the English canon.
When thinking about the importance of house music, the dance that it created—and that inspired the genre’s evolution—is less often discussed. Chicago’s footwork crew The Era is doing what it can to call attention to the significance of its style as art form and as cultural celebration. At Dazed Magazine, in a piece highlighting the group and the work they represent, Louise Brailey writes:
If you’ve spent any time exploring footwork on YouTube you’ll have seen the moves—the erks and jerks, skates, ghost, running man—and the incredible agility and precision that goes into bringing them all together. Sometimes it seems that a brilliant dancer isn’t just battling his rivals in the circle, but some very fundamental laws of physics, too. What is less obvious to the spectator is the huge significance invested in the feedback loop between the scene’s dancers and producers, essentially the motor behind the music’s constant renewal and development.
In the past couple of years it has become nearly impossible to avoid a certain genre of New York documentary that can best be described as urban eulogy. But The Lost Arcade, directed by Kurt Vincent and written by Irene Chin, isn’t just another wistful goodbye to the dirty boulevards of pre-gentrification New York. It’s a nostalgia trip back to a time where arcades were magnets for socially awkward, disaffected teens, some with literally nowhere else to go. It’s also, perhaps less intentionally, a complicated narrative about adaptation and survival.
The particular arcade which is the focus of the film, Chinatown Fair, has been around since the 1940s but the beginning of its heyday roughly coincided with its sale in 1982 to a new proprietor. (more…)
They take what they think are the biggest, most impressive parts of other selves, and devise a hologram of self that seems superpowered. Let’s call it “selfiness,” this simulacrum of a superpowered self.
“I feel like [music] can serve functions that used to be served by things that were religious,” says electronic musician Devon Welsh. Compelling words from one half of the art pop duo Magical Cloudz, whose 2013 record Impersonator communicates a pious respect for the creative process. Welsh’s sentiment becomes more complicated when we listen closely to the darker lyrics of Magical Cloudz’s haunting, minimalist ballad “Bugs Don’t Buzz,” a song that contemplates love and death:
Bugs don’t buzz when their time approaches We’ll be just like the roaches, my love
Thursday 8/25: Poetry is a Beautiful Object presents local readers with the chance to listen to poetry while browsing unique vintage finds. This month’s reading will feature Timmy Straw, Hajara Quinn, Dao Strom, and Nathan Wade Carter. Workshop Vintage, 7 p.m., free.
Enjoy a night of poetry and music, featuring Common Starling, Sean Croghan, Liz Mehl, and Brandi Katherine Herrera. Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, 7 p.m., free.
Diana Block reads from her new political novel, Clandestine Occupations: An Imaginary History. Broadway Books, 7 p.m., free.
Writing outside your personal experience is always a tricky thing, and writing about disabled people when you yourself are not disabled is an especially difficult thing to do. At Lit Hub, Nicola Griffith has some tough words of caution for writers trying to portray the disabled.
Erik Reece, author of Utopia Drive: A Road Trip Through America’s Most Radical Idea, writes a lively review of Thomas More’s 1516 novel, Utopia, for FSG’s Work in Progress. More’s Utopians “revere religious tolerance above all else…in keeping with the sentiments of their founder, Utopos, who ‘considered it possible that God made different people believe different things, because He wanted to be worshipped in many different ways.’” Reece reports back from a modern-day egalitarian community, Twin Oaks in Virginia, and ends in an almost full-throated cry for more utopia in 2016.
There are two things in writing: one is to say something with the form of what you’re saying, and the other is to say something with the content of what you are saying. … I think content is not completely arbitrary, but to a certain degree, it doesn’t always matter. If you really adore the way that someone thinks—whether they’re talking about asparagus or motorcycles—it’s just pleasant to listen, if you’re fond of them.
Over at Between the Covers, podcast host David Naimon talks with author Jesse Ball about his latest novel How to Set a Fire and Why, experimental form, his writing and teaching ethos, and creativity. Have a listen, and be in awe.
Perumal Morrigan is an author from a small Indian town who writes about caste and how it plays out in fictional villages. After bearing an organized attack against his novel One Part Woman in his hometown, the author didn’t write or read for several years, reports Ellen Barry for the New York Times.
Now, although Morrigan is writing again and has several new books out, he says that: “A censor is seated inside me now. … He is testing every word that is born within me. His constant caution that a word may be misunderstood so, or it may be interpreted thus, is a real bother. But I’m unable to shake him off.”
Readers immediately cared about Yossarian, and his survival. Yossarian is the point of connection and understanding; a strong central fulcrum around which the chaos of the novel spins. He’s also that universally appealing thing—an old-fashioned hero. (more…)
It’s not hyperbole to say that everyone is losing their minds over Frank Ocean’s release of Endless, Blonde, and Boys Don’t Cry Magazine. After a four-year wait between albums, this outpouring offers a lot of incredible material to unpack. Blonde’s credit list alone makes perfect fodder for music writers, listing David Bowie, Brian Eno, Kanye West, Jamie xx, Kendrick Lamar, Elliott Smith, Beyoncé, the Beatles, André 3000, and Pharrell, among others. Add in Ocean’s notes on the project and his feelings after its release in his own words, the music itself, and the magazine’s wealth of content, and a person needs weeks to digest it all—which is a pretty welcome way to spend the end of summer. Watch the video for the song “Nikes” below. (more…)
Screenwriters do the bulk of their work prior to the green light. Cameras not rolling. Trying to get films made. They toil at the wrong end of the time risk curve, taking on time risk in a myriad of forms.
In a column for Wordplay, screenwriter Terry Rossio explores the notion of “time risk” as it relates to “the power structure of Hollywood”— i.e., the relationship between screenwriters, producers, directors, actors, and agents. He concludes by offering some thoughts for screenwriters “to get time risk to work in [their] favor.”
We’re getting ready to send out our next Letter in the Mail, and it’s from Kristy Eldredge! While traveling home on an Amtrak train, Kristy writes to us about her quest to become a comedy writer and the difference between youthful friendships and adult ones.
Kristy Eldredge is a humor and fiction writer who also reviews books and makes comedy films. She has written a novel about the collapse of late capitalism and Hegel’s failure to point the way for future visionaries that mysteriously hasn’t found a publisher yet.
This column has been on hiatus since the springtime and I’m happy to be back. I’ve been reading so much—mostly books by women—this summer. While I’ve been away, I’ve been thinking about gender more than ever, if you can believe that. I’ve also been hanging out with some younger women, observing their strengths, and appreciating older women and what they give me, give all of us. (more…)