At a party thrown by Tom Stoppard in 1972, Kingsley Amis bumped into Roald Dahl, and was encouraged by the Matilda author to write a children’s book in order to make a quick buck. “The little bastards’d swallow it,” Dahl said.
“Write a short story from the point-of-view of a babysitter who one summer night witnesses something she never expected to see in her life, and then do a ‘find and replace’ in your Word doc until each instance of ‘babysitter’ becomes ‘Navy SEAL.'” Leigh Stein shares some “Writing Prompts for Girls and Women” with The Rumpus. Pair with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s review of Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan.
“These were not like other poems: within their consistent 16-line armature they were turbulent, mad, feverish, cryptic, an unruly union of boppy jive-talk, and thorny quasi-Elizabethan diction. It was impossible to tell who was speaking, or to whom; poems ended in mid-syllable, bristled with random phrases in foreign languages, sported menacing-looking accent marks and Shakespearean contractions, were riddled with ampersands and ellipses.” At The Rumpus, a memory of falling in love with The Dream Songs (which happens to nicely complement a piece we published back in April).
“The internet teems with writerly advice, almost all of which suggests that creativity is served best by monasticism, a quiet life filled with pencils—but that kind of advice seems to take a very short view of history, overlooking the one classic way to rouse the capricious Muses: sexually transmitted disease.” According to The Hairpin, maybe it’s not an MFA you need, just syphilis. After all, it seems to have worked for James Joyce, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Oscar Wilde and many, many others.
“It turned out that the most successful Christmas records tended to have two common qualities: catchy, upbeat melodies and imagined unlikely scenarios for anthropomorphized yuletide characters.” Move over, Frosty! It’s beginning to look a lot like … an unseasonably warm December. Here is a brief history of Christmas songs and of their often-surprising rise from corny kitsch to global sensation.
Out this week: Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams; Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan; Pond by Claire Louise-Bennett; Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter; The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock; Miss Jane by Brad Watson; The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon; and The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.