Elif Batuman, Francine Prose, and Lorin Stein are among the critics, authors, and editors who reveal their least favorite “great books.”
Willard Spiegelman’s provocative essay in the VQR’s recent State of American Poetry issue, “Has Poetry Changed?” incited quite a few responses. One of the better rejoinders came from William Childress, whose response, “Is Free Verse Killing Poetry,” raises some excellent points. “Poetry needs readers, not writers,” writes Childress. “But how many poets read any poetry but their own?”
Millions staff writing appearing elsewhere: At In Character, my essay about Derrick Borte's The Joneses and the idea of the American impostor (ECW).
“When, like Alice Munro, you feel your way forward, sniffing and digging and groping toward a truth virtually beyond words, it takes a long time. And the structures, organic to that process, are as miraculous and indicative and expressive of that truth—one of the deeper truths of human life—that fiction is all about.” Elizabeth Poliner explains how mapping Alice Munro’s stories made her a better writer. Never read Munro? Check out our beginner’s guide to her stories.
“I can read whatever I want. No one can stop me. I can help other people read what they want. And no one can stop them.” Zoe Fisher for The Rumpus about being "a horny queer teenager" who found her home in libraries. Pair with a controversial piece from our own pages this week by Douglas Koziol, a bookseller exploring what to do with “a book that you not only find objectionable but also believe actually dangerous in the lessons it portends amidst such a politically precarious time?”
"João Gilberto Noll frustrates attempts to foresee the plot or to craft stories as they are traditionally understood and written. The series of events that appear in them are as tenuously linked into a broader narrative as those of a dream." An interview with Noll translator Adam Morris.
It’s a common saying among actors that the script does most of the work. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible for a great writer to make art out of a bad story? At The Kenyon Review’s blog, Amit Majmudar says it is, using Shakespeare as proof. Related: five experts on the Bard’s greatest plays.