“If DBC Pierre wasn’t twelve scotches into a bender before he went on stage, I have lost a substantial wager.” Notes from the Melbourne Writers Festival, at the Electric Literature blog.
The Guardian‘s Max Liu highlights several rising star Asian American authors, including Year in Reading 2017 participant Jenny Zhang. “After years on the peripheries of US fiction and poetry, Asian American authors have stepped into the spotlight during 2017. Books by writers of east and south-east Asian heritage are one of the hottest trends this year. […] Transcultural writers, born to immigrant parents in the US or immigrants themselves as children, they are channelling their experiences into writing that, with perfect historical timing, challenges readers to resist attacks on immigrants’ rights and to see refugees as individuals with unique stories.”
“To use the lingo of their era, these novels are square. The protagonists have names like Jane and Barbara; they are not the misfits of which much teen literature is made but instead fundamentally good girls who long to fit in, and usually do … Viewed through the lens of contemporary culture, and especially contemporary teen lit, these girls should be boring and shallow. But Beverly Cleary’s supposedly ordinary girls are complex: resentful of their mothers one moment and sympathetic toward them the next, willing to do anything for one special boy but indignant when they’re taken for granted.” On the unexpectedly complex nature of Beverly Cleary’s boring protagonists with Ruth Graham at Slate.
Let the Great World Spin author (and one of today’s YiR2011 writers!) Colum McCann had some inspiring words for this year’s crop of Boston College freshmen. “There’s a degraded discourse around the notion of optimism these days that says there is something soft about being an optimist—something wrong,” he said. “It claims that optimism has no edge, as if it’s less than complete, less than the full deck of knowledge. The optimist is cartooned into the corner with an idiotic grin. I submit to you that none of that is true.”
Haven’t read our own Mark O’Connell’s great new essay at Slate? To mark the hundredth anniversary of Dubliners, Mark paid a visit to the James Joyce House, which led him to reflect on life in his native city. “If you live in Dublin, if you are yourself a Dubliner,” he writes, “no matter how many times you read the book, it will always reveal something profound and essential and unrealized about the city and its people.”
“I was performing an experiment. I wanted to see [how] one of the greatest minds in history would be affected by an experience he had never had before: imbibing a suitable dose of clinical LSD in a desert setting of great magnificence, and then adding to that various kinds of entertainment.” An oral account of a 1975 trip to Death Valley with Michel Foucault.
A new study says that book readers live two years longer than their non-reading counterparts. As they explain it, “While most sedentary behaviors are well-established risk factors for mortality in older individuals, previous studies of a behavior that is often sedentary, reading… have not compared the health benefits of reading-material type.” Pair with this Millions essay on private libraries and what books reveal about their readers.