"Reading fiction is one of my true loves, but essays help me to understand things about the world, the writer, and if they’re really great, myself." Electric Literature's Jason Diamond argues 2014 was "The Year of the Essay," and when we think over the collections published this year - The Empathy Exams, The Unspeakable and Loitering, among others - it's hard to disagree.
Recommended reading: a new, previously undiscovered story and accompanying poem by Charlotte Brontë. The story is rife with flogging and embezzlement–all the good stuff! Here’s a bonus piece on how Charlotte is at least partly responsible for the success of the Bronte sisters as a whole.
Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso writes about motherhood, writing, and the disintegration of the self in a moving essay for Harper’s. As she puts it, "I want to read books that were written in desperation, by people who are disturbed and overtaxed, who balance on the extreme edge of experience. I want to read books by people who are acutely aware that death is coming and that abiding love is our last resort." Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.
“Her characters sleepwalk to their certain fates through artificial pocket universes, each one seemingly constructed to satisfy the curiosity of an inhumane, omniscient narrator. Few writers have been so consistently and brilliantly unkind.” On Muriel Spark’s The Bachelors.
St. Patrick’s Day is over but there’s always cause to celebrate Irish storytellers. (Plus March is Irish-American History Month!) In this video from Open Road Media, you can listen to Edna O’Brien, Joseph Caldwell, Ken Bruen and T.J. English discuss the components of Irish storytelling that make for such good craic. Also you can check out the Poetry Foundation’s collection of St. Patrick’s Day poems for additional (belated) Irish writing.