In the current issue of Tin House Robin Romm has a very compelling essay on the value of mean-spirited judgement in our novels, especially as empathy becomes reified into fiction’s greatest gift and virtue, or even treated as a therapeutic offering.
“I realize that, like most fantasies, reality is likely to be more complicated. For starters, literary communities—like most communities—have echelons. They have cliques; they have ghettos. You are the wrong age, work in the wrong genre, don’t know the right people, don’t teach at the same program … Anyone who thinks this isn’t true is someone squarely at the center of his or her chosen circle.” On peripherality and the uncertain nature of literary community.
To get a full sense of the legacy of William Blake, you need to see his paintings alongside his famous poems. The Wordsworth contemporary did much of his best work — including the covers of his own collections — with a brush. At the New York Review of Books blog, Jenny Uglow pays a visit to a new exhibition at Oxford.
Everyone should read this extremely important interview with Matt Gallagher and Phil Klay, two talented writers who are also veterans of the Iraq war. Klay won the National Book Award in 2014 for his collection Redeployment–even Obama loved it. From drone strikes to PTSD to finding purpose after war, this interview covers a lot of bases. Phil Klay’s Year in Reading from 2014 is a little dated but worth a look.