Now that you can purchase the letters of William Styron, you can note how especially funny (and sad) it is that Darkness Visible, the author’s book-of-self-help-slash-memoir-slash-confession, sold well enough to overshadow the novels that made his name.
Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
“When, like Alice Munro, you feel your way forward, sniffing and digging and groping toward a truth virtually beyond words, it takes a long time. And the structures, organic to that process, are as miraculous and indicative and expressive of that truth—one of the deeper truths of human life—that fiction is all about.” Elizabeth Poliner explains how mapping Alice Munro’s stories made her a better writer. Never read Munro? Check out our beginner’s guide to her stories.