“Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds.” -From the much-quoted 1928 essay by SS Van Dine, noted art critic and mystery writer, on the 20 rules for writing detective stories. (via Guardian)
Máirtín Ó Cadhain is probably the most famous Irish writer you haven’t heard of, if only because he wrote all his masterworks in Irish rather than English. His best novel, Cre na Cille, has a simple and arresting premise: a town in Connemara has a graveyard in which the dead can speak. In The Guardian, Kevin Barry (who we interviewed) reads the novel for the first time.
After a Boston attorney banned the publication of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman set out to defend the book, arguing that the sex that earned the book censorship was an integral part of the experience he wanted to convey. In an essay for Salon, John Marsh examines Whitman’s defense in light of the content of his work, exploring the ways in which he upset Puritan mores. You could also read our own Michael Bourne on how Walt Whitman saved his life.
“To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail,” Will Self told The Guardian. He and six other authors, including Margaret Atwood and Lionel Shriver, reflect on their life, career, and love disappointments. Pair with: our own Edan Lepucki’s essay on accepting rejection.
The essay is more than just a literary genre but a lifestyle, and it's dominating American society, Christy Wampole argues. “The genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America,” she writes.