“I take to heart Percival Everett’s point that all writing begins as experiment. Experiments are hypo/theses; wagers; fermentations or useless admixtures; mud pies and blood pies.” Miranda Mellis talks with HTMLGiant’s Christopher Higgs in the next installment of Higgs’s essential “What Is Experimental Literature?” interview series. It’s worth perusing the the back catalog if you missed the first three, with the fabulous Debra Di Blasi, Danielle Dutton, and Bhanu Kapil.
"I find it amusing that people think trying to read a book in a language you do not understand is the most boring activity in the world. If you are interested in how literature works, these things are interesting.” On Lydia Davis's interest in learning to read Norwegian literature and writing at the end of the world, from the newly-launched Lit Hub.
"After ten years of painting, that is to say ten years of using an abstract, invented language, writing stories was the closest I had come to working in the realm of 'realism.' It was the most direct I had ever been in my art. Perhaps the most direct I had ever been. But, as I learned from the comments of my peers in workshop ('this isn’t a story,' 'this is poetry,' 'what is this'), my writing was something other than what we referred to as literary realism. By which I mean, the writing many have come to believe most accurately represents life." Susan Steinberg asks what happened to American experimental writing.
Though Mark Twain first gained notoriety after publishing an essay about a famous jumping frog, the onetime Samuel Clemens didn’t really hit his stride until he became a public speaker, as the money he accrued from reading in front of audiences gave him a steady source of income. At Salon, Ben Tarnoff recounts Twain’s journey to the podium, one laid out more broadly in Tarnoff’s book about a group of San Francisco writers.
The Mississippi was integral to Mark Twain's fiction, so David Carkeet traced Twain's path on the river in the new issue of Smithsonian. "What would Samuel Clemens have made of the Riverwalk? He was a grown child who readily took a God’s-eye view of life on earth. He would have loved it." Pair with: Our essay on Twain's travel writing.
"[E]ach video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria." The Paris Review has a new video series called "My First Time," in which big-name authors talk about getting their start. Helen DeWitt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sheila Heti, a chain-smoking Karl Ove Knausgaard – what more could anyone want? More origin stories, that's what! Six writers – Colum McCann, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Justin Taylor, and Anthony Marra – look back on their first books for us.