“The uncanny—not truth, beauty, or goodness—is literature’s boon.” The good thing about literature: it makes you weird.
Attention New Yorkers: The 2010 PEN World Voices Festival kicks off today with Claire Messud, Lorraine Adams, and Norman Rush. Update: Audio of this stimulating discussion of diversity in literature is available at WNYC. And it looks like many World Voices events will be streaming live at the PEN Website, accessible whether you hang your hat in New York or Nome (or Wasilla). Tonight catch Patti Smith, Rodrigo Frésan, and Salman Rushdie.
"Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them." Over at The Point, Jake Bittle considers why we collect books as opposed to simply reading them. He also points out, correctly, that books are very, very unpleasant to move, something our own Matt Seidel can confirm.
"You’re asking if the Race Memoir, the Gender Memoir, or the Sexuality Memoir will survive market trends. I don’t know, but if I put your question in context with Imani Perry’s idea then yes, it will endure. Will it always be 'trending'? No, but it will endure." Just one of many great lines from Kima Jones who, along with Terese Marie Mailhot, Meredith Talusan, Ijeoma Oluo, and Kathryn Belden, discusses the current upswing in books on gender and race for Buzzfeed.
We celebrated Canada Day a bit early here yesterday with the news that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature and our review of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam. So what is Canadian literature exactly? Atwood offered her definition for The Daily Beast: "It’s too multiple [to give a concise definition], but let us say that the point of view (if the writer is not pretending to be American, which they often are) is never that of someone who feels that their country is an imperial power. Because, in fact, Canada is not an imperial power." You can also see The Handmaid's Tale at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet next week.
"I realize that, like most fantasies, reality is likely to be more complicated. For starters, literary communities—like most communities—have echelons. They have cliques; they have ghettos. You are the wrong age, work in the wrong genre, don’t know the right people, don’t teach at the same program ... Anyone who thinks this isn’t true is someone squarely at the center of his or her chosen circle." On peripherality and the uncertain nature of literary community.
Got a smartphone? Check out the new Sonnets by William Shakespeare app to receive 154 poems, scholarly annotations and criticism, as well as special sonnet performances from such notables as Sir Patrick Stewart. Revisiting The Bard of Avon’s verse will prove so pleasurable; you’ll probably forget altogether that he was a self-plagiarist way before Jonah Lehrer.