Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
“I think it’s important that poets exist in societies because they exist in the realm of affect. Feeling is important to them. How people feel, what they feel, what breaks them, how trauma resonates through their lives… that’s a legitimate space in poetry. It’s a legitimate space for investigation.” Aaron Coleman interviews Citizen author Claudia Rankine about intimacy, her writing process, and her experience in an MFA program.
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
Christian Lorentzen wonders, in Book Forum, what the first OWS novels will be like. He anticipates them showing up next year, but I’m thinking we’ve already got at least two, though they were both published well before Occupy: Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story ought to fit the bill, and, of course, there’s that famous Melville story about Wall Street, but I’d prefer not to talk about it when I could just direct you to Hannah Gersen’s piece instead.
A few weeks ago, I pointed you to this piece on the surprising racism of children’s books. The essay was a response to controversy surrounding the rescinded publication of Ramin Ganeshram’s A Birthday Cake for George Washington, which upset readers with its confusing, cheerful illustrations and alleged misrepresentation of the nature of slavery. Over at The Guardian Ganeshram defends herself and addresses the problem of cover design versus author intent.