Susannah Hunnewell interviews Michel Houellebecq, France’s controversial literary icon, for The Paris Review’s “The Art of Fiction” series: “There is a need for intensity. From time to time, you have to forsake harmony. You even have to forsake truth. You have to, when you need to, energetically embrace excessive things.”
As part of the River to River Festival, poet Jon Cotner has put together a “floating world,” or a map of Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō’s work transposed onto Rockefeller Park. Each hour, Cotner will lead a tour through the world. This isn't the first time Cotner's done something cool like this, either. Check out our dispatch from his "Poem Forest" last year.
Martin Scorsese is finally making a movie without Leonardo DiCaprio. He and David Tedeschi are working on a documentary about The New York Review of Books. It will cover the publication's history and feature new footage of Joan Didion and Michael Chabon, among others. The film is a work in progress but will premiere at Berlinale next month.
Though it's long been known as the gentleman's sport, tennis seems to be slipping a little bit in its cultural refinement. Melville House has a blog post on the reading habits of elite players, and they're spotty at best, though Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and Camus are all mentioned, as are J.K. Rowling, Tolkien and, simply, "newspapers."
Twitter lets writers think in public, and it's changing the way we write, Thomas Beller argues in The New Yorker. “Does articulating a thought in public freeze it in place somehow, making it not part of a thought process but rather a tiny little finished sculpture? Is tweeting the same as publishing?"
Thomas Pynchon defined what he termed “vintage Barthelmismo” as “fictions thoughtfully concocted and comfortably beyond the reach of time.” This moving tribute to Donald Barthelme by Padgett Powell from the forthcoming anthology, A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors, is right in line with Pynchon’s sentiment. Here’s another Barthelme mention from The Millions that you may be interested in.