Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy that aren’t the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.” Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven’t even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
For the most part, your average writer’s retreat is a pretty cushy place. Its amenities are designed to let its guests turn their energies to the difficulties of artistic work. At The Paris Review Daily, Rex Weiner writes a dispatch from a different sort of retreat — a haunted house for writers in Mexico. To read about a more traditional experience, check out our own Michael Bourne on his time at Bread Loaf.
Perhaps best known for her fiction, specifically her classic The Group, Mary McCarthy became a novelist almost by chance. “McCarthy was good at recycling – a term which she used herself – and good, also, as she admitted, at plagiarizing her own life. Nevertheless, her fiction lives, and some of it has been highly influential.” Margaret Drabble takes us through McCarthy’s major works of fiction, featured in Mary McCarthy: The Complete Fiction which was released this year in a deluxe collection for the very first time.
Hitchens looks back at the Rushdie fatwa and its legacy of censorship.The Feltron 2008 Annual Report“The Governor and the Glove” – an encounter with BlagojovichJoseph O’Neill remembers Updike (via TEV)Ted Leo performs Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”The Paleolithic era of online news.TNR reviews Outliers: “It is an axiom of Malcolm Gladwell’s method that a perfect anecdote proves a fatuous rule.“
Last week, popular science fiction author John Scalzi wrote a contentious (but necessary) blog post that likened the lives of straight white males to “the easiest difficulty setting” in the “videogame” known as life. While comments on the original post had to be closed due to uproar, the piece was reposted to Kotaku where the discussion rages on.
Speaking to Parul Sehgal, recent Booker and National Book Award finalist Jhumpa Lahiri confesses that in order to write, she must begin from “a place where I feel—and need to feel—completely alone and anonymous.” The Lowland author elaborates that the act of writing is “such an intimate thing; I can’t do it in front of other people. It’s a rich dimension in one’s head – to access it, the noise has to be shut off. And there is a lot of noise in the world.”