“To say that late Victorian poetry is bleak would be akin to remarking that Wilkie Collins had a decent knack for plotting a novel. These poems are freighted with Gothic overtones, and it is not uncommon for some supernatural phenomenon to intrude upon what had started out as a seemingly harmless quatrain. We often encounter Death himself—or the Devil—who is something of a literary celebrity for the decadent poets. But what marks the best of these poems is that the outré is in service to something that we can think of as more desperate, and, wouldn’t you know, human.” Over at The Boston Review, an online-only essay looking at the peculiarities of Victorian decadent poetry.
At The Daily Beast, Newsweek reporter Barbie Latza Nadeau on Amanda Knox, the American university exchange student convicted of the murder of her roommate, an English exchange student, Meredith Kircher, by Italian criminal courts in December 2009. The murder took place in Perugia, Italy, where both girls were studying abroad. The case, with its suggestions of ritual sexual violence, and Knox’s bizarre behavior throughout the investigation and trial transfixed the Italian media. The excerpt at the Beast is from Nadeau’s new book Angel Face: The True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox.
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Sara Davidson’s Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship with Joan Didion is an intimate portrait of one of America’s most revered and private writers.
Our review of A Widow’s Story took Joyce Carol Oates to task for not mentioning that she had remarried not long after the death of her husband. In the New York Review of Books, Julian Barnes recently made the same point. Responding to the Barnes review, Oates defended her choice, but diplomatically added, “In retrospect I can see that I should have added something like an appendix.”
Fans of Moby-Dick should read Nathaniel Philbrick’s outstanding historical account In the Heart of the Sea. The book, which tracks the fate of The Essex, a New England whaling vessel sunk by a humongous sperm whale in the South Pacific, is vivid and harrowing. It’s also, as it turns out, only one of the naval catastrophes to befall George Pollard, Jr., The Essex‘s captain: a second wreck of his was recently located off the coast of Hawaii.
Newly minted Paris Review editor (and polymorphous enthusiast) Lorin Stein runs down some recent pleasures for More Intelligent Life. To wit: Lipsyte, Dickens, Du Maurier, Nádas, Merle Haggard, newcomer April Ayers Lawson, the Lydia Davis Proust, outer-borough maniacs, and “proletarian erotica”…not necessarily in that order.