“Poe’s verses illustrate an intense faculty for technical and abstract beauty, with the rhyming art to excess, an incorrigible propensity toward nocturnal themes, a demoniac undertone behind every page—and, by final judgment, probably belong among the electric lights of imaginative literature, brilliant and dazzling, but with no heat.” – Walt Whitman on Edgar Allan Poe’s significance, circa 1880.
Tim Parks writes for the NYRB about writers living abroad. As he puts it, “But what about those writers who move to another country and do not change language, who continue to write in their mother tongue many years after it has ceased to be the language of daily conversation? Do the words they use grow arid and stiff? Or is there an advantage in being away from what is perhaps only the flavor of the day at home, the expressions invented today and gone tomorrow? Then, beyond specifically linguistic concerns, what audience do you write toward if you are no longer regularly speaking to people who use your language?” Pair with Hannah Gersen’s Millions piece on reading the English translation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words.
The number of options presented to people dating today can be overwhelming and sometimes weird. Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine touches on this subject, posing “questions about wanting and having and bodies and food and sex that often arise in discussions about how people date today.” Natasha Lewis reviews the book in The New Republic.
Last week, I told you about Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Eighty Books No Woman Should Read,” which is a tongue-in-cheek riff on Esquire’s “80 Books Every Man Must Read” list. Now, here’s a fascinating rebuttal from Electric Literature in which Sigal Samuel ponders what might be gained by reading sexist old white guys.
“Women writers and writers of color don’t really have the luxury of being known simply as writers. There’s always a qualification,” Roxane Gay writes for The Nation. She ponders what it means to be a “black woman writer” and concludes that we should view diversity as a search for “urgent, unheard stories.”
In the June Atlantic, William Deresiewicz revisits that old favorite subject, the past and future of the Great American novel, in a review of two new books about the history of novels: The Dream of the Great American Novel by Laurence Buell and The Novel: A Biography by Michael Schmidt. (Dizzy yet? If not, consider nine other experts’ opinions on the Great American Novel here at The Millions, for a round dozen.)