Speaking of festivals, recaps of last weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books are up at Jacket Copy. Rafael Yglesias took home the top fiction prize for his novel, A Happy Marriage.
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
“(The Great Gatsby) is often considered the greatest American novel of the 20th century—I waver on that sometimes but I love the beauty of its writing, its tabloid immediacy, the high body count, its modernistic touches, the relentless drama put into its novella-length form.” Bret Easton Ellis’s top ten favorite books doesn’t include many surprises, but it’s worth a look.
Not highbrow, not lowbrow, not even middlebrow – is American culture now dominated by the upper middle brow?
“Good political poems, outlive the events that shape them… they lead strange lives.” One such poem, written after a pogrom 100 years ago, has since been translated by Palestinian resistance leaders, and more recently claimed as “Israeli” by PM Netanyahu. Some of the most notable works of the genre have been collected by Poetry. New projects in political poetry I’m excited about: online journal Matter Monthly, and Rattle’s Sunday column for a political poem addressing events of that week.