As I processed a dominant Euro-American writing pedagogy from the perspective of an aspiring fiction writer and an immigrant critic of color, I couldn’t stop wondering: are we, in 21st-century America, overvaluing a sight-based approach to storytelling? And could this be another case of cultural particularity masquerading itself as universal taste?
In his relatable poem in Hunger Mountain, “Observations at the Security Checkpoint,” Joel Brouwer gently explores traveling life under our TSA overlords:
Now our gestures
grow both more hurried and more delicate,
we stand on one foot to remove a boot,
take off our hats and jackets, as if for
sex or prayer, exposing ourselves to
each other and the officers, the officers
our lovers and our prophets both.
Leah Mirakhor interviews Homegoing author Yaa Gyasi for the Los Angeles Review of Books. On her novel and Ness, a primary character, Gyasi says:
This novel was an attempt for me to say: We cannot look away when something like this is happening.
Roxane Gay is from the Midwest, but as a woman of color she feels like an outsider in the rural places she often inhabits. In an essay for Brevity, “Black in Middle America,” Gay examines reactions to her face in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place so remote “my blackness was more curiosity than threat”, and in Illinois’s cornfields—somewhere blackness is more familiar but no more understood....more
If the very rich were to admit that the society in which they live such lush lives is not only immoral but unnatural, it might demand, say, a massive redistribution of their wealth!
Over at Lit Hub, Colette Shade writes about Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth as an indictment of income inequality in Gilded Age America—distressingly relevant to our own age, despite the book sitting at 116 years old....more
Kaitlyn Greenidge, author most recently of We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books) provides her take on Lionel Shriver’s recent remarks at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival for the New York Times. Greenidge recalls writing her first novel in which there was an eighty-year-old Yankee heiress....more
‘Banned books’ sounds like a thing of the past. But over at Lit Hub, Amy Brady details the ways that the fight against censorship continues in libraries and schools today:
If school administrators are attempting to limit even elective reading, what does the future hold for students who want access to all books, classic and contemporary—books that might broaden their understanding of the world?
Why is it that knowing how to remain alone in Paris for a year in a miserable room teaches a man more than a hundred literary salons and forty years’ experience of ‘Parisian life’?
Over at the Paris Review Daily, Alice Kaplan, author of the new biography Looking for the Stranger, writes about Albert Camus’s time in Paris, from the months he spent in a Montmartre hotel room toiling his way through the first draft of The Stranger to his return to report on and fight the German occupation....more
First, in the Saturday Interview, Helga Schimkat talks to author Eden Robinson about silencing the inner voice of criticism. Robinson, whose award-winning novel Monkey Beach is set in British Columbia, emphasizes the sensory and emotional role of home in her work, saying, “Writing about your community is difficult for any writer....more
Women loving women is nothing new, and not a phase: in Hazel Newlevant’s comic at BuzzFeed, “Badass Bisexual Women In History You Should Know,” she walks through the personal lives of Josephine Baker, Virginia Woolf, and more as part of a conversation with her mother, who starts out with one opinion but seems open to another....more
What does it mean to be carried away? To be captured, carried off, liberated? To lose control of oneself? Lerner doesn’t show concern for questions like these. More generally, The Hatred of Poetry takes little interest in the rarities of technique across a poet’s body of work and avoids questions about his or her sense of history.
Maybe you’ll finally listen now that climate changing is destroying your precious pumpkin spice season.
In other actually important news: the Black Lives Matter syllabus.
Keeping things heavy: X-men and the legacy of AIDS.
Eventually we’ll be living inside a JG Ballard cover....more
Monday 9/26: Shake up the start of your week with a reading by Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (Nation Books). Magers & Quinn. 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday 9/27: Intermedia Arts kicks off its eleventh season of the Queer Voices reading series, creating safe space for LGBTQIA+ writers and audiences....more
The last two years editing the Sunday Rumpus have allowed us to publish an exciting range of longform essays, and we’re honored to have had the chance to work with daring writers experimenting with form, and pushing the edges of personal writing in new and challenging ways....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.
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....more
At Timeline, Matt Reimann finds a predecessor to the modern “woke apology” in John Steinbeck’s remarks on his novel Tortilla Flat:
Steinbeck’s plea here so closely mirrors the structure of the modern political correctness apology, he may well have invented the template.
Settling the debate about whether “writer” is job that arose with Merritt Tierce’s Marie Claire essay about going broke post-debut novel, and a response piece by Ester Bloom at The Billfold calling writing a hobby, Lincoln Michel finds a middle ground between the two stances, arguing at Electric Literature that yes, writing should be considered a job—and the attitude that it isn’t encourages exploitation....more
Over at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center blog, Suzi F. Garcia challenges the idea of poetry as a niche act of the elites by showing just how vital and contagious teaching a text like Citizen can be:
Move poetry outside of its context.
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....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....more