When a professor of literature wrote Flannery O’Connor for a master key for interpreting her story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” he probably did not expect her particularly unimpressed reply: “Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.” (Via the ever-excellent Letters of Note.)
Slate corrects an oversight to Sarah Palin’s otherwise impeccably edited memoir: no index. Theirs runs from “Alaska, autumn bouquet of” (page 1) to “‘you betcha’ – revelation of as not actually Alaska’s state motto” (page 309), and includes such helpful detours as “exclamation point, usage of” (pages 4, 26, 120, 121, 122, 138, 150…) You almost – almost – don’t have to read the book.
Writers are told that they should outline their work. Elizabeth Gilbert has outdone us all by writing a 70-page outline for The Signature of All Things. “I have no German Romantic idea about work. There’s no fugue state, you know? I could no more write at 3 a.m. than I could with a quill pen. I keep farmer’s hours and I have that sort of plotting and plodding way,” she told The Daily Beast.
Heading to London in the near future? Stop by the British Library’s new Terror and Wonder, which bills itself as the UK’s biggest Gothic exhibition in history. To whet your appetite, you can read this Guardian piece by Neil Gaiman, in which the Sandman author names Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the apex of Gothic fiction. Related: our own Hannah Gersen on Frankenstein and the “Year Without a Summer.”
“Nobody there but dirty old men who spit tobacco juice and try to look up your skirt.” The city square is one of the biggest architectural differences between the United States and Europe. Over at The Daily Beast, George Packer takes a look at plazas/piazzas and makes a case for why America needs more.
Whether or not you believe that Oxford University Press is “the largest, most diverse and most respected university press in the world,” you’ll appreciate this review of a new history of the company, which goes through OUP’s origins, its relationship with its namesake and the opening of its New York office in 1896.
“I can read whatever I want. No one can stop me. I can help other people read what they want. And no one can stop them.” Zoe Fisher for The Rumpus about being “a horny queer teenager” who found her home in libraries. Pair with a controversial piece from our own pages this week by Douglas Koziol, a bookseller exploring what to do with “a book that you not only find objectionable but also believe actually dangerous in the lessons it portends amidst such a politically precarious time?”
“You’ll engage with your advisor in a free-form dialogue about essential skills such as plotting your next career, pacing your financial ruin, structuring TV binge-watching during optimal writing hours, and characterizing all of this as ‘learning how to fail.'” Hey, this new low-competency MFA from the fictitious Half Mast College sounds pretty great. Here’s our own Hannah Gersen on why she has foregone the MFA route entirely.