Point: Dan Chaon believes younger writers should read more contemporary writing before attempting to be published themselves. Counterpoint: J. Robert Lennon believes most contemporary writing is a waste of would-be writers’ precious time. TL;DR Version: Nathan Elwood notes that if writers “want to change the face of literary fiction … [they should] at least know what it looks like.”
The recent opening of the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art has occasioned a number of rave reviews. They’re so good, in fact, that they’ve inspired Los Angeles Times writer Carolina A. Miranda to comb the write-ups for “evocative turn[s] of phrase, political metaphor[s], and references to lady parts” in order to assemble a standalone poem. Or, rather, it was standalone until artist William Powhida made a drawing out of it. (Full size drawing here.)
“Despite a glut of English translations (well over a hundred, by my count),” writes Dante scholar Robert Pogue Harrison, “New versions of the entire [Divine Comedy] poem or individual canticles continue to appear in rapid succession—six in the last decade alone.” Over at the New York Review of Books, he investigates three of the latest: Dan Brown’s Inferno, Mary Jo Bang’s Inferno, and Clive James’s Divine Comedy.
Granta has a new series in which authors explain how they arrived at successful opening sentences. In the latest installment, Colombian author Héctor Abad links the brain chemistry that inspired him to write his chosen sentence with the chemistry that inspired him to fall in love with his wife.
Max Linsky interviewed Riddle of the Labyrinth author Margalit Fox about the other career she’s had for eight years: obituary writing. Fox remarks on how obituaries have grown from being “the bastard stepchild of American journalism” into “the best gig” in the entire industry. Here’s one of my favorite Fox obituaries, by the way.