Roger Boylan at the Boston Review writes about the flourishing posthumous career of Mark Twain: “…more than 5,000 previously unknown letters of Twain’s have surfaced in the last 50 years. This represents an average of two new letters per week, but still only about one-tenth of the 50,000 or so he is believed to have written.” And at Slate, Craig Fehrman discusses the “brilliant brand management” behind the handling of Twain’s autobiography.
Jessica Love writes for The American Scholar about some recent psychological studies on the art and perspective of storytelling. Of particular interest is the way “the first person does seem to encourage us to identify with the narrator, especially when that narrator is a lot like us.” Not that identifying with narrators is the primary purpose of reading, as the New Yorker reminds us in a piece against “relatability,” but it’s something to consider the next time you pick up a novel and find a character who seems to be just like you.
Guernica’s latest issue is devoted to the American South. As the issue’s introduction states, “The American South is at once a geographical distinction and a bright spot in the imagination, where burden vies with birthright, and where ignorance and renaissance exist side by side.” The issue features a Kiese Laymon essay on inequality and language, Ed Winstead on the Southern accent in writing, an interview with Jesmyn Ward, fiction, and more.
“When she was at Radcliffe, Gertrude Stein always wore black and refused to wear a corset. Samuel Beckett liked Wallabee boots and Aran sweaters and settled on his hairstyle when he was 17.” Proving that author worship is still alive and well, The New York Times reviews a new book called Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. Come for Mark Twain‘s white suit; stay for Zadie Smith‘s head wraps. Semi-related: how clothing makes the (fictional) woman and man.
“I saw it as a breath of fresh dark honest night air. I could live in my grief and be weird in my grief.” A.N. Devers writes about her love of Twin Peaks for Longreads, situating the show within her contemporary experiences of losing her grandparents and her girlhood.
“You can only advocate for yourself when you know what it is you want from the experience. You’d be surprised by how many people go into this process and are unclear about what they hope to get out of it.” Over at the Amazon Author Insights blog, Katrin Schumann offers a checklist of seven tips to survive submitting your writing to editors, including this note about articulating your goals beforehand. (Ed. note: Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!)
Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, died this morning in Monroeville, Alabama at the age of 89. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for Mockingbird, which later formed the basis of a film starring Gregory Peck. To learn more about her legacy, you could read our own Michael Bourne on the hidden character of Atticus Finch, or else read Robert Rea on a pilgrimage he took to her home.
“Think of landscape. Think of how elements come to be attached to one another, how it’s impossible to separate the road from the field, the field from the tree, the tree from the water, the water from the sky. We cannot attribute natural features to the lines we design just as we cannot attribute natural causes to those dying as they try to cross them.” For Tin House, Portuguese writer Susana Moreira Marques meditates on the concept of borders and Wolf Böwig’s photography project, “Borders and Beyond.”