Catching you up to speed with two recent literary controversies: 1) Poets & Writers‘ MFA rankings kerfuffle gets a climactic and eloquent summary from The Missouri Review‘s Michael Nye. 2) In response to her Salon article, “How the National Book Awards made themselves irrelevant,” Victor LaValle has some fightin’ words for Laura Miller.
“[A]n audio odyssey through fiction, archival tape, interviews, and late nights with the likes of James Baldwin, Dorothy Parker, and the cutting-edge writers of our time. Featuring readings from LeVar Burton, Stockard Channing, Jesse Eisenberg, Marc Maron, Eileen Myles, David Sedaris, Dick Cavett, Dakota Johnson, and more!” Did you know The Paris Review has a new podcast? See also: our interview with current TPR editor Lorin Stein.
Sex ed for teenagers is a famously knotty subject, which explains why Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman, wants to eschew sex ed classes in favor of literature courses. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children,” he said in a television interview. “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.” (No word yet on what he thinks of Crime and Punishment.) (h/t The Paris Review)
For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean's about his life, his escape, and literature.
There's a pedestrian bridge spanning Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis that features a John Ashbery poem written on its steel beams. This is a fabulous slideshow of photos showing the poem. Via been thinking.
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms "highbrow" and "lowbrow," here's an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.