Are critically acclaimed authors really terrible? Is feminism bad for women? New York Magazine runs down the greatest hits of what appears, in hindsight, to have been the Decade of Counterintuition (and, in the process, catalogues many of my personal bêtes noires).
Jennifer Egan recently spoke with Willing Davidson, fiction editor of The New Yorker, as part of Rewiring the Real, a yearlong series of podcasts with writers about the interplay of literature, technology and religion. Rachel Hurn, a former Millions intern, was there and noted Egan's ambivalence towards "personal writing." [Updated to correct the quote] "If writing necessarily meant writing about myself, then I'd rather do something else," Egan said.
"If [Langston] Hughes and Cullen were competitors, of sorts, for the prize of principal African American poet of their generation, Cullen may have had an early lead, and during the later 1920s and early 1930s they were often discussed in tandem." At The Boston Review, Major Jackson takes a look at the career and legacy of Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen.
Measuring a writer's success is tricky. An author might make The New York Times Bestseller List now but only be a footnote in an encyclopedia a century later. At The Guardian, D.J. Taylor wonders what contributes to a writer's posterity and concludes a pushy publisher or sponsor is often a writer's best asset. Pair with: Our essay on how John Updike fans attempt to maintain his reputation.
“The art style also changes from chapter to chapter — some panels fill the pages to the edges and are overwhelming in their dark palette; some seem ordinary in proportion, confident; others fill the space around small figures with words, words, words; and others still have a minimalist, sketch-like quality and barely occupy the page at all — and they aren’t always chapters, or even stories, in the traditional sense.” On MariNaomi’s Dragon’s Breath and Other Stories.
In the late seventies, when Susan Sontag was recovering from cancer, she hired an assistant to help her catch up on correspondence. Her editor recommended Sigrid Nunez, who began working for Sontag and ended up moving in with her. Nunez now recalls the experience with a mixture of gratitude and pain. In Dissent, a look at the economy of creative assistants.