Rick Gekoski, previously shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley prize, talks about what it means to be a good literary loser, at Guardian: “And as soon as the winner is announced and it isn’t you,” Colm Tóibín observed, “the cameraman just walks away, and you are left there at the table trying to look composed, and you want to die.”
“When I want to be ambushed, captured, thrust into a strange and vivid world, and tossed aloft until I cannot stand it, until everything is at stake and life feels almost unbearably vivid, I do something simple. I read short stories.” Electric Literature has posted Ben Marcus‘s “paean to the contemporary American short story,” which doubles as the introduction to New American Stories and does a pretty good job of capturing just what it is we love about reading fiction.
At The NYT Mag, Virginia Heffernan‘s “Drill, Baby, Drill” explores the possibility that drills and memorization might not be quite as oppressive as some of the kinder, gentler pedagogues of our time suggest and offers a list of aps to help aspiring rote learners (Nota Bene: VerseByHeart).
Beauty is in the eye of the writer. Adelle Waldman discusses why many novelists fail to address female beauty in a meaningful and nuanced way. “Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny—they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.”
“Summer morning is risen / and to even it wends / and still I’m in prison / without any friends.” Start your Monday off right with this piece from The Paris Review on John Clare, Christopher Smart, and the poetry of the asylum. Speaking of the madhouse, here’s a piece on Anne Sexton and her book Transformations.
In 1952, John Steinbeck wrote that Al Capp, the cartoonist and Lil’ Abner creator, might well have been the best writer working in the world at the time. In the Times, Andy Webster reviews a new biography of Capp, which reveals that underneath it all lay “a toxic chip on his shoulder.”