“After ten years of painting, that is to say ten years of using an abstract, invented language, writing stories was the closest I had come to working in the realm of ‘realism.’ It was the most direct I had ever been in my art. Perhaps the most direct I had ever been. But, as I learned from the comments of my peers in workshop (‘this isn’t a story,’ ‘this is poetry,’ ‘what is this’), my writing was something other than what we referred to as literary realism. By which I mean, the writing many have come to believe most accurately represents life.” Susan Steinberg asks what happened to American experimental writing.
“Raymond Chandler did not invent the private eye — Dashiell Hammett and a few others got there first. But his vision is the one that caught the public eye and stuck most indelibly in the imagination, like — in one of his aromatic metaphors — ‘a tarantula on a slice of angel food.’” On a new biography of the man behind Phillip Marlowe.
Colson Whitehead has some advice: write the book that “scares you shitless.” In a recent, wide-ranging interview with John Freeman, the Underground Railroad author talks about why he wrote his latest novel, along with his methods for sussing out good ideas. You could also read our review of The Underground Railroad.
In her short history of executioners, Stassa Edwards notes that the decision to replace “the traditional punishment” of drowning people “in a sack in a local river” was actually quite pragmatic: it was “more economical” to go with a simple beheading.
“Love / is the only fortress / strong enough to trust to.” Mary-Kay Wilmers for the London Review of Books reviews Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore. In the book, Moore’s slightly-bizarre domestic life is examined with fairness and honesty alongside her impressive body of work. If poetry is your thing, check out our On Poetry column for more.
After our plea to lift The Bluest Eye‘s recent ban, The Nation has also come to Toni Morrison’s defense. “This pervasive sexual violence is reality for tens of thousands of students, a reality the Ohio Board of Ed is looking to whitewash with this latest censorship drive,” Peter Rothberg writes.
There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about the traumas lurking in the comment section. It’s almost a rite of passage to get abused for something you write. But there’s another kind of trauma — what happens when you get no comments at all? At The Rumpus, Rachel Newcombe writes about a new kind of emptiness.
The National Rifle Association is featuring a series of reimagined fairy tales on their website. The only difference? Way more guns. In the debut story, Hansel and Gretel don’t bemoan their lack of food since they had been taught from birth to hunt with guns for sustenance. No, it’s not yet April Fools’ Day.