Jane Campion‘s Bright Star was released in theaters today. Read the New York Times‘ favorable review and watch a clip of Campion’s take on the romance between Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). According to papers on both coasts, it is Cornish who shines brightest: the NYT applauds her “mesmerizing vitality and heart-stopping grace.” You may recognize Whishaw as the demented/gifted perfumier Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Tom Tykwer‘s adaptation of Patrick Suskind‘s 2001 novel Perfume: The Story of a Murder.
Even though Harper Lee hasn’t given an interview in 50 years, her letters are an insight into the notoriously reclusive writer.”I simply don’t give interviews, because it takes great skill to ask meaningful questions and very few people in the media have it,” she wrote in a 2005 letter. Two of Lee’s letters will be auctioned today and are expected to go for at least $2,500 a piece. Pair with: Our essay on reclusive authors.
Los Angeles Review of Books managing editor Evan Kindley reviews Michael Szalay’s Hip Figures: A Literary History of the Democratic Party, and says it “reminds us of a time, not long ago, when literary intellectuals set great store by mainstream political parties, and vice versa.”
Eliza Griswold’s deeply affecting profile of the female poets in Afghanistan ran last April in the New York Times Magazine, and it’s certainly worth a read if you missed it back then. For those who read it and wanted more, though, definitely check out the Pulitzer Center’s multimedia package on all of Griswold and photographer Seamus Murphy’s work, Afghanistan: On Love and Suicide.
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms “highbrow” and “lowbrow,” here’s an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.
“If the history of the American sentence were a John Ford movie, its second act would conclude with the young Ernest [Hemingway] walking into a saloon, finding an etiolated Henry James slumped at the bar in a haze of indecision, and shooting him dead.” Adam Haslett takes on Stanley Fish, Strunk & White, and the art of writing a sentence.
Did you major in social sciences or the humanities as an undergraduate? If so, it might’ve been because someone in your family had a mood disorder or a problem with substance abuse. A new survey published by Princeton University posits that “a family history of psychiatric conditions, such as autism and depression, could influence the subjects a person finds engaging.”
In the Times Book Review, Year in Reading alum and Edinburgh author Alexander Chee reviews Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, a Millions contributor. He describes the book as, among other things, a departure from your average literary thriller: “If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now.”