Recommended Reading: The New York Times’s feature on Dana Spiotta. “When Dana Spiotta was working on her fourth novel, Innocents and Others, she sat beneath a huge bulletin board pinned with her sticky notes and research materials: lists of relevant words (passion, transformation, intimacy) and ‘seeing’ devices (zoetrope, stereoscope, camera obscura), and photographs of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard and the Maysles brothers. ‘It’s like walking into the book,’ Spiotta told me. ‘You feel it all around you.’” To prepare for her upcoming release, revisit our review of Stone Arabia.
Momina Mela writes on the gendered misconceptions about confessional poetry. As she puts it, “In comparison to female confessional poets, male confessional poetry has been regarded with less ridicule as accusations of being merely therapeutic. This is often due to the detachment which occurs with the adoption of personas, even though female poets such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and even Sharon Olds integrate the use of personas in their work as well.” Also check out this Millions essay on the poetry of mental unhealth.
“Putin, like Hitler, understood that the purpose of spectacles is to dazzle the eye while clouding the mind.” For the Daily Beast, staff writer Bill Morris writes about the thuggish dictators who love the propaganda of the World Cup. (If you haven’t already checked out our list of seven great soccer reads, do it now!)
“If Earth overheats and crops and fuel become scarce, guess what? I know good bartering supplies include tampons, mercury fillings, eyeglasses. One particularly anxious day I read instructions on how to cook on my woodstove—so in the early days of environmental apocalypse and culture collapse, my family will enjoy bygone potatoes roasted over hot coals and underdone loaves of bread.” Year in Reading alumna Megan Mayhew Bergman prepares herself for the apocalypse.
“Whenever I tried to invent a character or a situation, I felt a stab of guilt. I could hear my teacher’s quavering voice saying, Write what you know! Why had she insisted on this so vociferously?” Writing class mantras are easy to impart but they are also easily misinterpreted. A.X. Ahmad, author of The Last Taxi Ride and The Caretaker, learns this truth the hard way as he tries to become a writer following a personal upheaval. Pair with Ahmad’s Millions essay on “The Thriller, Reinvented.”
The Guardian published a couple of fun pieces earlier this week. The first is a hilarious excerpt from Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. The second is a collection of the top ten most memorable meals in all of literature.