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.)
For those of you who’ve ever wondered to what extent e.e. cummings wrote prose the way he wrote poetry, there’s this letter to consider, published by The Paris Review Daily to commemorate the poet’s birthday. It’s addressed to Ezra Pound, and it features phrases including but not limited to “macarchibald maclapdog macleash.”
“I really do hate the idea that black joy itself is a joy derived in spite of. While it may indeed include that, limiting it to such assumes that joy among black people only exists as a defiant response to oppression from white people. I’d rather believe that black folk are capable of this deep supernatural sense without having to be enslaved or disenfranchised.” For the Boston Review, Jericho Brown on poetry and joy.
After thirty years, Larry Kramer has finished his novel The American People, which he prefers to consider a new form of nonfiction. In the novel, a narrator based largely on Kramer writes a historical expose, also titled The American People, in which numerous American icons are described as having been gay. As Kramer says, he wrote the book in part out of a feeling that gay people are excluded from history books.
Michael Lewis gave the 2012 Baccalaureate Address at Princeton University this year, and used his time to speak about life experience, the strange paths we take after graduation, and everyone’s “debt to the unlucky.” You can watch the speech here, or you can read the transcript here.