Though everyone is tired of the online critics are too nice/ do critics even matter debate cropping up everywhere as of late, Daniel Mendelsohn’s “Critic’s Manifesto” may be the best thing to come out of the conversation yet: a clear formulation of what it means to be a critic and why that matters.
Madhu Kaza, a “writer, artist and educator,” has a possible solution for you. She’ll come into your home 15 minutes before bedtime and sit in a chair beside your bed and read to you from your favorite books until you fall asleep. Then she’ll let herself out and lock the door behind her. The free service is called Here Is Where We Meet, the title of a 2005 novel by John Berger. The only requirement is that you fill out a short questionnaire and make an appointment — and get ready to say goodbye to the sheep and the warm milk.
We take it for granted that our language will grow and change. But one thing we think less often about is that our alphabet is subject to the same forces. Herewith, Carlos Lozada reads Michael Rosen’s new book Alphabetical, which delves into the origins and future prospects of our writing system.
“So why should the stories about us always be about the bad stuff? We deserve the romantic comedy, the late night barfly scene, the silly, light-hearted stuff of life reflected back at us.” Camille Perri writes about the need for queer stories that are not rooted in sadness, trauma, or loss. Pair with: an essay on the commercial viability of LGTBQ literature.
The Guardian has photos of A Little Life author Hanya Yanagihara‘s New York City apartment and its 12,000 – yes 12,000 – books. Pair with our interview with her from 2015: “It was the worst—the bleakest, the most physically exhausting, the most emotionally enervating—writing experience I’d had. I felt, and feared, that the book was controlling me, somehow, as if I’d somehow become possessed by it.”
Recommended Reading, if you have the time: the full archives of the famed Partisan Review (published from 1934 to 2003) are now available online, searchable, and completely free. Essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews in the vault include work by Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, Franz Kafka, Doris Lessing, George Orwell, Marge Piercy, Jean-Paul Sartre, Roger Shattuck, Susan Sontag, William Styron, Lionel Trilling, and Robert Penn Warren. A worthy epitaph: “The Partisan Review is finished, but its vision has triumphed.”
We recently offered a look at the odd history of the book blurb here at The Millions. Now the New York Times is looking at this peculiar custom, inviting four contributors to discuss their merits and pitfalls. Among them is our own Bill Morris, who revisits his 2011 essay “To Blurb Or Not To Blurb” about the dilemma he faced when asked to blurb a friend’s book.