Fun Fact: “Literature” was an Olympic event until 1948. In fact, several other events were also listed under the umbrella of “Sporting Art,” as Olympic historian John MacAloon points out to NPR. For example, W. B. Yeats’ brother, Jack Butler Yeats, won the “Mixed Painting” silver in 1924; some people even won “Medals for Making Medals!”
James Joyce inspires a lot of English papers but not songs. Yet musician Casey Black based his song “Happiness” off of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. With lyrics like, “So I walk the Dublin streets like they were passageways through my soul,” we think Joyce would approve.
“There is a term in the legal world for such instructions — dead hand control — and, although compliance has varied and enforceability is debatable, they have been attempted by artists from Franz Kafka to a Beastie Boy.” The New York Times explores the potential impact of Edward Albee‘s will on his work, including his instruction that any manuscripts incomplete at the time of his death be destroyed. Pairs perfectly with Aaron Hamburger‘s recollection of staying at the famous playwright’s place out in Long Island for an artists’ residency.
Sick of feeling inadequate compared to your literary peers? Well, you might want to stop reading, then: turns out Adam Thirlwell published his first book when he was three. (The readers of Granta learn this not from Thirlwell, who seems a bit abashed, but instead from Year in Reading alumnus Jeffrey Eugenides.)
Jennifer Egan recently spoke with Willing Davidson, fiction editor of The New Yorker, as part of Rewiring the Real, a yearlong series of podcasts with writers about the interplay of literature, technology and religion. Rachel Hurn, a former Millions intern, was there and noted Egan’s ambivalence towards “personal writing.” [Updated to correct the quote] “If writing necessarily meant writing about myself, then I’d rather do something else,” Egan said.
Recommended reading: one essay on George Orwell‘s stomping grounds on the Scottish island where he wrote 1984 in the throes of a tubercular fever, and another on the tiny Indian town of Motihari where he was born.