It’s 1957. You’re Truman Capote. Your editor at The New Yorker, inspired in part by an excellent sense of humor, has asked you to write about an upcoming film (based on a novel by James Michener) that stars none other than Marlon Brando. How do you handle it?
James Baldwin couldn't be more relevant, but he is fading from America's high school classrooms. His controversial writing, censorship, poor student reading habits, and absence from the Common Core are all to blame for the lack of Baldwin in the curriculum. Pair with: Our essay on why Baldwin's work still resonates.
"‘What I want,’ a young Luis Buñuel announced to the audience at an early screening of his first film, Un Chien Andalou (1929), ‘is for you not to like the film … I’d be sorry if it pleased you.’ The film’s opening scene, which culminates in a close-up of a straight-edge razor being drawn through a woman’s eyeball, is often taken as the epitome of cinema’s potential to do violence to its audience...Horror movies frighten us; violent thrillers agitate us; sentimental stories make us cry. Suffering is often part of our enjoyment. Within limits, however: we are not to be so displeased that we are not pleased. Buñuel deliberately went beyond the limits of permissible displeasure. And so, in his own way, does the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke."
Morrisey, Lauren Groff, and Erica Jong are among the finalists for the 2015 Bad Sex in Fiction award. The award is presented annually by the British magazine Literary Review in an attempt to “draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them.” Past winners include Norman Mailer and John Updike (the sole recipient of a prestigious lifetime achievement award).
What is the function of the art critic, anyway? According to Barry Schwabsky at The Nation, it is not "making or breaking" an artist, but rather "opening up perspectives without ... belaboring them." For the critically minded among you, here's a Millions review of A.O. Scott's new book Better Living Through Criticism.
“Every one of these books is a herd of animals.” The Atlantic reports that a group of archaeologists and geneticists in the UK have used mere crumbs of parchment to study the DNA of several thousand-year-old illuminated manuscripts, the pages of which were made of cow and sheep skins.
"'There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,' [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, 'which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.' Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance ... By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness." This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.