Two writers dive deep into David Foster Wallace’s posthumous Pulitzer finalist novel, The Pale King. Seth Colter Walls takes a look at the tax classes the author took before he began writing, and Eliot Caroom checks the facts laid out in Wallace’s portrayal of the IRS. (Related: the opening lines of The Pale King, and a previously unpublished scene as well.)
“These stories feature hookups and breakups, substance abuse, and violence so casual it’s as natural as jagged breathing.” Electric Literature has an interview between flash fiction author Len Kuntz and critic and writer David Galef, whose Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook was just published by Columbia University Press. The two discuss the state of short fiction, their favorite one-line stories of the year, and how, even in the briefest of narratives, readers should still “feel a connection to the story and characters.” For more ultra-lean tales, see our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s review of Hint Fiction, an anthology of 25-words-and-under short stories.
The more you know! In Victorian times, sitting for a photograph could last hours due to primitive camera technology and the need for long, long exposures. This, predictably, didn’t jibe with kids, and so parents had to adopt an ingenious workaround: disguising themselves in the picture so they could physically restrain the youngsters. (Don’t miss Part 2, either.)
Journalist and author Simon Winchester highlights five books “that shed light on the social history of his adopted homeland, from the late 19th century to the Great Depression.” We’re pleased to see Millions Hall-of-Famer Stoner make the cut.
You can’t write about Robert Lowell without writing about mental illness — the poet went through many stretches of mania and psychosis in his life. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reads a “medico-biography” of Lowell, which takes a full measure of his lifelong illness and its consequences.