“If the history of the American sentence were a John Ford movie, its second act would conclude with the young Ernest [Hemingway] walking into a saloon, finding an etiolated Henry James slumped at the bar in a haze of indecision, and shooting him dead.” Adam Haslett takes on Stanley Fish, Strunk & White, and the art of writing a sentence.
Over at The New Yorker, Hilton Als writes about Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Prince, Cecil Taylor, Octavia Butler, and time travel. He writes, “Toward the end of the film, [Beyoncé] moves further back into the past and examines her roots, we see any number of sharply dressed women sitting in the natural world, talking among themselves. This will remind readers of that extraordinary scene in Beloved, when the elder commands those who have gathered in a clearing to love their hands, themselves—because if they don’t, who will?”
Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
Momina Mela writes on the gendered misconceptions about confessional poetry. As she puts it, “In comparison to female confessional poets, male confessional poetry has been regarded with less ridicule as accusations of being merely therapeutic. This is often due to the detachment which occurs with the adoption of personas, even though female poets such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and even Sharon Olds integrate the use of personas in their work as well.” Also check out this Millions essay on the poetry of mental unhealth.
“Writing on a computer can be terribly distracting, so sometimes I like to use a pencil and paper to jot down ideas. I always end up drawing a cartoon duck. Inevitably, the duck is holding a notepad, and I can read the ideas that he wrote down.” At Clickhole, six writers explain how they overcome writer’s block.