“John Milton—poet, free speech advocate, civil servant, classics scholar—was arguably a forefather to Asimov, Bradbury, Delaney, and the rest. Their outlandish other worlds owe a debt to his visionary mode of storytelling; their romance—characters who go on quests, encounter adversaries at portals, channel the forces of light and dark—is his, too.” Over at Slate, Katy Waldman makes the argument for Milton as sci-fi author. Pair with our discussion of his epic Paradise Lost as part of this piece about difficult books.
Adding to a review by Pamela Erens for The Millions, Zoë Heller reads Janet Malcolm’s Forty One False Starts for the New York Review of Books. Among other things, she concludes that the writer’s job, at least in Malcolm’s estimation, is “to vanquish mess.” (You could also read a review in The Nation I wrote about a few weeks ago.)
Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal’s column for The New York Times debuted last week with her reflections on the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. As she puts it, “He is a spider of a writer: subtle and sly, patient, with invisible designs. He never proclaims — he never needs to. He envelops.” Pair with John Yargo’s Millions essay on Hrabal’s fiction.