Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there’s no Wild West.
Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader are using Kickstarter to raise $100,000 for an indie movie entitled The Canyons. The film “documents five twenty-something’s quest for power, love, sex and success in 2012 Hollywood,” and, if you donate $5,000, Ellis will provide notes on your novel. According to New York, this Ellis-Schrader film is not to be confused with their other one about sharks, alluded to most recently by Ellis in his Paris Review interview (Reg. Req.).
Are you embarrassed about your lack of literary inheritance? You're not alone. Here's a great piece by Annie Liontas at The New York Times on those first, lonely forays into the literary world: "But I see my experience as an immigrant into the world of letters as a blessing. Being an outsider is the origin of my imagination; it gives me the constant consciousness that my perspective is only one of many and that there are myriad ways of being in the world. It grants me the gift of being attuned to the voices in the room, as well as all of those shut out of it."
Over the past week, the work of three Millions staffers has been shown off for other publications: Mark O’Connell talks Lethem, Dyer and Batuman for Slate; Emily St. John Mandel talks noir for Beyond the Margins; and Garth Risk Hallberg names his selection for this year’s Pulitzer-less Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The new issue of Story South dedicated its “Special Feature: Southern Poets” section to the work of Kathryn Stripling Byer. To wit, you can check out two of her poems – “Waiting for Bob” and “Making Myself at Home” – as well as an interview between her and Terry Kennedy, and a review of her latest collection, Descent.
"Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising 'to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,' though he was typically vague about his actual plans." The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani writes a review of Volker Ullrich's new Hitler biography, Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, so timely it could easily be an op-ed. Just read it. And when you're done, read this too.