“Eleven years later, the Atlantic Monthly editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made a similar request to an obscure, retiring poet named Emily Dickinson who had written a letter asking if her verses ‘breathed.’ Her response was much like Melville’s, if typically elliptical: ‘Could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?'” The age-old problem: how writers deal with publicity.
“We all read from different places, different backgrounds, and my meeting with Proust or Woolf, or Lydia Davis or J. M. Coetzee, will not be yours, nor should it be. On the other hand I do believe reading is an active skill, an art even, certainly not a question of passive absorption. … [so] there must be techniques and tools that everyone can use or try, even if we use them differently.” Tim Parks explains how he reads for The New York Review of Books.
“Then there’s the no-one-reads-anymore hysteria, the lack of supportive careers for apprenticing writers, the MFA deathtrap, etc. It feels self-indulgent as a critic to say, ‘But the whole critical structure has broken down, let’s talk about that.’ The critic only comes into play when the books are actually produced and put onto the market, meaning their jobs are tied into this whole decaying, rotting mess of an industry.” Jessa Crispin writes on the self-hating book critic.
The new year ushered in more than soon-to-be-broken resolutions. This January 1, a vast cache of works released in 1923 entered the public domain—including tens of thousands of books. Here’s how to download them for free, and here’s what all this means for publishers and readers alike. Happy hunting.
Over at Salon, Joel Whitney explains how The Paris Review worked with the CIA and “served, in part, as a covert international weapon of soft power.” While the possibility is certainly tantalizing, it’s necessary to read Whitney’s article alongside Carolyn Kellogg’s piece in the LA Times, which notes how “the threads of the article … become unsupportably tenuous” as it carries on.
The Welsh government is hoping that Dylan Thomas can do for Swansea what James Joyce has done for Dublin. This year, officials have announced that £750,000 will be made available for the DT 100 Festival, which will celebrate the centennial of the poet’s birth. Aside from boosting tourism, however, the festival’s organizers also hope to “raise the status of Thomas,” who many feel has “[been] neglected [and had] his work … overshadowed by a conception of the man as a drunkard, scrounger and womaniser.”
“Perhaps this is why King favors prose—many of his novels and stories confront terror so enormous it transcends poetic language.” In Poetry Foundation, an essay about Stephen King‘s little known literary habit: writing poetry. Pair with: our editor Lydia Kiesling on discovering America through King’s novels.