In its treatment of the poor, Britain may be “going back to the Middle Ages,” says Booker repeat winner Hilary Mantel. Indeed, she explains, “In some respects … Cromwell lived in a more enlightened time.” And she’s not the only high profile UK author to come to the side of government welfare these days. In a two–part interview for The Daily Show, J.K. Rowling notes that she couldn’t have written her first books without government “benefits.”
When asked about his tenure as a professor of creative writing, Harry Crews used to say, “I may be at the university, but I damn sure ain’t of the university.” But in talking to his former students, Crews’s biographer, Ted Geltner, found that in spite of the writer’s efforts to distance himself from academia, he really was a passionate, memorable teacher. (Bonus: Yours truly named one Crews work his “most representative” Florida book.)
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the “Ted Wilson Reviews the World” series over at Electric Literature. This week, he takes on everyone’s (least?) favorite confection — sprinkles. Unsurprisingly, sprinkles score a bit higher than Anxiety did a couple weeks ago: “Sprinkles can take an ordinary cupcake and turn it into a cupcake that looks like a rainbow shattered and fell all over it, and then the leprechaun at the end of that rainbow hid inside the cupcake and the only way to get him is to eat it.”
“The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium—an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace.” Gabriel Roth writes about the terrible Poky Little Puppy for Slate, and his complaints pair well with Jacob Lambert‘s Millions series, “Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray?” and “Again, I Ask…“
“’These issues are constantly being brought to the surface in Roman literature, if you have eyes to see them,’ Beard said. ‘And, of course, having eyes to see them—that’s what the trick is.’” Rebecca Mead writes for the New Yorker about Mary Beard, the Cambridge classicist famous for her BBC programs on Roman life and for her handling of online harassment. For more from Beard, check out her interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books about the importance of the classics, and for more about online negativity, head to Salon‘s article on “Why female writers get trolled the most.”
“So a single image can split open the hard seed of the past, and soon memory pours forth from every direction, sprouting its vines and flowers up around you till the old garden’s taken shape in all its fragrant glory.” Read an excerpt from Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir at Longreads. Pair with Beth Kephart’s essay on how memoir can be a conversation between reader and writer.
“The female writers whose work has most recently come in for enthusiastic appraisal are by no means a homogeneous group; their influences, preoccupations and style vary wildly.” The Guardian profiles six women authors – Beryl Bainbridge, Anita Brookner, Angela Carter, Jenny Diski, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Molly Keane – whose posthumous legacies continue to grow. Alix Hawley wrote a fantastic tribute to Brookner here earlier this year, noting, “[n]obody does depression quite so elegantly.”