“I was dropping out of college and had begun a novel and returned to New York. A bookstore in Manhattan announced a rare reading and signing by Anthony Burgess, a primary hero of mine at the time, for his autodidact’s erudition and braggadocio, and for how he’d gentrified a number of outre genres just by picking them up and mingling them with his erudition and braggadocio.” At the LARB, Jonathan Lethem remembers a formative reading by the author.
Electric Literature just launched a new experiment with Israeli writer Alex Epstein. Epstein published his latest collection of "micro-fiction" for free on Facebook, and he wrote about the experiment on the Electric Literature blog. For the next week, Electric Literature will be publishing a sample of translations from his collection on their Facebook page.
We've heard about the weak dollar making things tough on Canadian readers, but the pain is being felt by Canadian publishers as well, as profit margins diminish. The latest casualty is publisher Raincoast Books.Philip Agee died today. His Inside the Company in 1973 may have created a modern day genre, one that would be contributed to by many former agents, the CIA tell-all.The Atlantic reaches deep into the archives to bring us "The History of Children's Books," from 1888:It is hard to imagine a world without books for children. There have been children's stories and folk-tales ever since man first learned to speak. "Many of them," in Thackeray's words, "have been narrated, almost in their present shape, for thousands of years since, to little copper-colored Sanscrit children. The very same tale has been heard by the Northmen Vikings, as they lay on their shields on deck; and by the Arabs, couched under the stars in the Syrian plains, when the flocks were gathered in, and the mares were picketed by the tents." Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature. Miss Yonge says, "Up to the Georgian era there were no books at all for children or the poor, excepting the class-books containing old ballads, such as Chevy Chase, and short tales, such as The King and the Cobbler, Whittington and his Cat." We shall nevertheless see that there were English books for children (and it is with no others that we have to deal) long before this time.
This week in Fascinating Archive Picks: The New Statesman dug up a Philip Larkin essay from 1962. Kicking off with an eccentric fantasy of hearing Shakespeare’s voice on vinyl, the essay delves into the importance attached to a poet’s voice, which impels Larkin to regret that early record producers didn’t think to record Thomas Hardy. Related: Leah Falk on reading poems aloud.
In a digital age, what’s the point of handwriting? It may seem like there isn’t much point to honing one’s penmanship these days. In Hazlitt, Navneet Alang suggests that handwriting, far from being a lost art, is in fact a “useful alchemy” that retains particular uses. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on writing by hand.
The Washington Post offers a long profile of the still underappreciated Edward P. Jones. We learn he hasn't put a word of fiction to paper in four years but has been writing in his head. "'I write a lot in my head,' he says. 'I've never been driven to write things down.'" (via @keelinmc)
"The worst insult people hurl at adoptees is that they are 'ungrateful' and should 'go back' (to their 'own' countries, to their old families). That is the moment when adoption becomes a gift—because that is the moment when it becomes clear that adoption belongs to people like the adoptive parent and not people like the adoptee. We shouldn’t want our birth families, our birth cultures. We should be thankful for being taken from the mothers who bore us. This idea of gratitude can ruin thankfulness. Why should we be grateful?" Matthew Salesses writes about gratitude and luck as an adoptee, over at The Toast. You could also check out Salesses’s Millions essay on novel writing, inciting incidents, adoption, and beginnings.