At McSweeney’s, Shakespearean letters to Santa.
For The Brooklyn Rail, John Ashbery answers some questions about writing in French, crushes on boys, and the presence of “it.” As he puts it, “I’m sort of notorious for my use of the pronoun 'it' without explaining what it means, which somehow never seemed a problem to me.”
Are you still not following Pentametron, even after I urged you to do so last week? (And even after New York Magazine added it to its Approval Matrix?) Well, if that’s the case, I shouldn’t even share Earwickr with you. You don’t deserve to read Finnegans Wake spelled out on your Twitter timeline, 140 characters at a time. (Bonus: Michael Chabon reviews James Joyce’s final work for The New York Review of Books.)
In random-but-awesome news, Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG reports on a new project by Dutch earth scientists to piece together what they're calling an "atlas of the underworld." Using CT scans to visualize "invisible landscape features—the ghostly remains of entire continents—hidden inside the planet," the project will reveal a surface within earth's surface. See also: our review of Where You Are, an anthology of sixteen alternative maps by a range of artists and writers including Geoff Dyer, Valeria Luiselli, and Leanne Shapton.
Is it possible to read fiction by an actor without thinking of them as the character that made them famous? It’s a question many people asked when reading James Franco, and it’s a question they’re likely to ask again when reading One More Thing, a new book of short stories by The Office star B. J. Novak. At Open Letters Monthly, Justin Hickey reviews Novak's collection.
"One thing that could have made this story end differently is if the United States had a significant cultural policy. We have a trade policy – we protect industries we value – and we have an anti-trust policy designed to protect consumers. We have arts and humanities endowments that assist institutions. But our cultural policy is mostly to let culture fend for itself in the open market. It works great, but sometimes it doesn’t." Salon looks at what Amazon, the Penguin-Random House merger, and the imposition of capitalism to culture might mean for literature at large.