Picador’s Gabrielle Gantz is holding monthly conversations with bloggers, and she posts the results on the publishing house’s fantastic Tumblr. Here she interviews Aidan Flax-Clark, associate editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, and gets him to discuss the similarities between his research and The Matrix.
If you're a professor or mentor, it's the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson's recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. "He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends." Even if the government didn't like Whitman's work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne's essay on the power of Whitman's poetry.
How can science fiction writers invent aliens and entire planets but not include multifaceted characters of color in their fiction? At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky discusses the genre's equality problem and analyzes how race is viewed in everything from The Left Hand of Darkness to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. "When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination."
“'These issues are constantly being brought to the surface in Roman literature, if you have eyes to see them,' Beard said. 'And, of course, having eyes to see them—that’s what the trick is.'” Rebecca Mead writes for the New Yorker about Mary Beard, the Cambridge classicist famous for her BBC programs on Roman life and for her handling of online harassment. For more from Beard, check out her interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books about the importance of the classics, and for more about online negativity, head to Salon's article on "Why female writers get trolled the most."
“Most writers … don’t ask questions of a journalist,” writes How to Read a Novelist author John Freeman. But what of those that do? Over the course of a fifteen year career, Freeman has found that “what the novelists asked of me told me [a great deal] about them,” and that a big problem with the standard format for author interviews, after all, is that “the conventions of the interview deprive us of one thing a novelist does quite a bit, which is ask questions.” (Bonus: Freeman will be in conversation with Jennifer Egan Thursday night at McNally Jackson.)
Recommended reading: Harpers on the making and persistence of literary canons in a relativist age.