Philip Levine has succeeded W. S. Merwin as America’s latest poet laureate. Now is as good a time as any to revisit his interview with The Paris Review. You could also watch one of his readings if that’s more up your alley.
Let the Great World Spin author (and one of today’s YiR2011 writers!) Colum McCann had some inspiring words for this year’s crop of Boston College freshmen. “There’s a degraded discourse around the notion of optimism these days that says there is something soft about being an optimist—something wrong,” he said. “It claims that optimism has no edge, as if it’s less than complete, less than the full deck of knowledge. The optimist is cartooned into the corner with an idiotic grin. I submit to you that none of that is true.”
Robert Krulwich takes on two very different types of “nothing.” As he illustrates through the invocation of Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and outer space, “nothing” is a lot more complicated than you might initially believe.
“I think if a woman is absolutely happy with herself, that goes a long way in getting others to accept her choices. But it’s hard to be absolutely happy with yourself, whoever you are. I mean, what kind of maniac is that?” What kind of maniac are you? This interview with Mary Gaitskill from Guernica Magazine is fantastic.
Penguin released a book trailer for the newest Thomas Pynchon novel in which a guy in a T-shirt that reads “I’m Pynchon” stands on a rooftop on the “Yupper” West Side and talks about his life. (To find out why I used the term “Yupper,” check out the recent New York mag piece on Pynchon that I wrote about last week.)
After his death, fans of David Foster Wallace canonized him as a prophet, according him a degree of benevolence shared by almost no one in American letters. In New York Magazine, Christian Lorentzen argues that Wallace himself worried about this happening, and says he’d “probably be the last person to argue for his sainthood.” His essay pairs nicely with Jonathan Russell Clark on The David Foster Wallace Reader.