The gulf between Picador and every other publishing house continues to yawn in one major aspect: literary playlists. To honor the release of Dylan Jones’s Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music, Justin Hargett put together a list of his “Favorite Covered Songs!” (Previously: the “Marriage Playlist” for Jeffrey Eugenides)
“They found, unsurprisingly, that blocked writers were unhappy. Symptoms of depression and anxiety, including increased self-criticism and reduced excitement and pride at work, were elevated in the blocked group; symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, such as repetition, self-doubt, procrastination, and perfectionism, also appeared, as did feelings of helplessness and 'aversion to solitude'—a major problem, since writing usually requires time alone.” On the causes of writer’s block.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist's chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
"I didn’t know who William Kelley was when I found that book but, like millions of Americans, I knew a term he is credited with first committing to print. 'If You’re Woke, You Dig It' read the headline of a 1962 Op-Ed that Kelley published in the New York Times, in which he pointed out that much of what passed for “beatnik” slang (“dig,” “chick,” “cool”) originated with African-Americans." Are you familiar with William Kelley? Let Kathryn Schulz be your guide on this historical literary adventure as she discovers an immensely influential writer whom most of us have never heard mentioned.
When you think "Franz Kafka," it typically isn't his sunny disposition that comes to mind. According to Reiner Stach, this new collection of ephemera, however, seeks to challenge the tired, old conception of Kafka-as-tortured neurotic. Here's a Millions review of Stach's twin biographies of Kafka, himself.
"Morality... is a slippery slope and nowhere more, perhaps, than in regard to art, to literature, which begins as the expression of a single heart, a single mind. That it becomes more than that — connective, the fiber of a conversation between writer and reader, and between both of them and the world — is not just the point but the miracle... To frame this miracle in moral terms is to misread what art extends to us: a way of joining, for a moment only, across the void." In an article for the LA Times, David L. Ulin considers the implications of the George V. Hunt, SJ Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts and Letters, which will award $25,000 to a writer “of sound moral character and reputation [who] must not have published works that are manifestly atheistically or morally offensive.”