Los Angeles Review of Books managing editor Evan Kindley reviews Michael Szalay’s Hip Figures: A Literary History of the Democratic Party, and says it “reminds us of a time, not long ago, when literary intellectuals set great store by mainstream political parties, and vice versa.”
It’s common for descriptions of James Joyce’s Dubliners to label its stories portraits of Irish life. If you’d like to look at actual portraits of Irish life in 1904, however, you could do a lot worse than this series of old photos of Dublin, available online courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute.
“Sometimes I fear that Midwestern authors are seen from a similar vantage point: that many of us are ‘fly-over writers’ to whom readers wave (or just ignore completely) as they make their way to Saul Bellow and Stuart Dybek and Marilynne Robinson. I fear that these bigger names, along with a few others (Charles Baxter, Lorrie Moore), are seen as exceptions to the general rule that little of cultural worth grows in this flat, middle stretch of the country.” On the plight of the literary Midwesterner.
In a head-scratching piece of writing for the New Statesman, Dave Eggers (whose novel The Circle just cracked our Top Ten) reflects on a cross-country drive he took from Jeddah to Riyadh. The journey, and in particular a comment made by his chauffeur, caused Eggers to ponder the significance of his nationality, his ability to perceive danger, and the intentions of others. The short of it: Some people from other countries are nice. Who knew?
Reviews are still in the literary news, and in the midst of all the nicey niceness and plentiful hot air, Alix Ohlin got a real smack down in the Times for her new novel, Inside, and her new collection of short stories Signs and Wonders. Which prompted J. Robert Lennon to consider: How does one even write a good “bad” review?
“They say ‘kill your darlings,’ but I think darlings are your voice — your favorite parts, the parts you’d admire even if you didn’t write them. Why destroy what you love? If you feel that strongly about something you’ve written, pay attention!” Elisa Gabbert pens Electric Literature‘s “Blunt Instrument” column, which this month involves how to find one’s style as a writer. And for more scrivening advice, see our own columnists Swarm & Spark on the best way to seek feedback on your work,sending a memoir into the world, and whether writing a novel will jeopardize your mental health.