December 15th. New York City. Mark your calendars. John Jeremiah Sullivan and Wells Tower discuss “the art of the essay in light of Sullivan’s new book, Pulphead.”
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym 'GAN,' which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
"Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway)." Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad's Kurtz?
Ahead of next week's publication of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the battle over Stieg Larsson's lucrative literary estate. (Thanks, Craig)
“We envision a library full of blood,” reads the “About” section of the Black Cake Records website. “We want the very best blood, & we want it everywhere.” Intrigued? You should be. The project, begun in 2013, serves as “a forum for producing & disseminating audio archives of contemporary poets reading their work.” For an introduction, you can start with “Trench Mouth” by Danniel Schoonebeek, whose debut collection, American Barricade, was published last month by YesYes Books.
If you like the music of groups like Portishead, CocoRosie, and the Cocteau Twins, you might be interested in the eerie musical dreamscapes of Emily Wells, a gifted violinist and vocalist whose work combines classical, folk, and hip hop. Here she performs "Symphony 1 In the Barrel of a Gun."