Recommended Reading: Walter Kirn’s “Confessions of an Ex-Mormon,” which has my vote for the best long form article on American religions since Lawrence Wright’s profile of Paul Haggis and the Church of Scientology.
“Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green
in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat. / My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling.” Last week, Ocean Vuong published his newest collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds. This week, it seems to be all anyone can talk about (because it’s fantastic). Here’s a piece from The New Yorker on Vuong and his designs for the English language.
How did Ian Fleming come up with James Bond? It’s easy to think, considering the political context of his era, that Fleming tailored his superspy to be the ideal hero of the Cold War. Yet there’s another, more prosaic explanation — was the author simply having a midlife crisis?
“What makes a word ‘real’?” Should groan-inducing words like “adorkable” be counted? Anne Curzan, language historian, gives a Ted talk about the human element in dictionaries and the importance of slang.
Forget the Dos Equis guy. John Fairfax was truly “the most interesting man in the world” and, if you don’t believe me, read this series of lines from his actual obituary: “At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate.”
“One thing that could have made this story end differently is if the United States had a significant cultural policy. We have a trade policy – we protect industries we value – and we have an anti-trust policy designed to protect consumers. We have arts and humanities endowments that assist institutions. But our cultural policy is mostly to let culture fend for itself in the open market. It works great, but sometimes it doesn’t.” Salon looks at what Amazon, the Penguin-Random House merger, and the imposition of capitalism to culture might mean for literature at large.
In 2013, Mo Yan became China’s first resident Nobel Laureate in Literature, which prompted a huge swell of interest in his books in the West. In the Times, Janet Maslin reviews Frog, his latest novel to get an English translation. Sample quote: “Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye, says everything he needs to about the Cultural Revolution with a scene in which Tadpole and other schoolboys eat coal and claim to find it delicious.” You could also read Alan Levinovitz on modern Chinese literature.
“We envision a library full of blood,” reads the “About” section of the Black Cake Records website. “We want the very best blood, & we want it everywhere.” Intrigued? You should be. The project, begun in 2013, serves as “a forum for producing & disseminating audio archives of contemporary poets reading their work.” For an introduction, you can start with “Trench Mouth” by Danniel Schoonebeek, whose debut collection, American Barricade, was published last month by YesYes Books.