Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea — as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers — has little to no basis in reality?
We’ve covered the Atlantic series By Heart a number of times before. It features notable authors writing about their favorite passages. In the latest edition, Mary-Beth Hughes picks out a paragraph from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, about a poet who’s trying to cope with grief. Sample quote: “Reading Fitzgerald, I felt it was possible to write as I’d experienced dancing.”
Why did Richard Brautigan’s friends eventually stop inviting him to parties? Was it because he got drunk? Was it because he brought too many friends? Or was it because, as Michael LaPointe suggests in his review of Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan, he liked to pack a revolver?