Got any big social engagements coming up on your calendar? Want to make a splash? Well here’s just the thing: memorize a whole heap of the words assembled in Douglas Adams and John Lloyd’s The Meaning of Liff, which has been entirely digitized thanks to some kind souls. Then try to work them into as many conversations as you can. (h/t The Harlequin)
Measuring a writer’s success is tricky. An author might make The New York Times Bestseller List now but only be a footnote in an encyclopedia a century later. At The Guardian, D.J. Taylor wonders what contributes to a writer’s posterity and concludes a pushy publisher or sponsor is often a writer’s best asset. Pair with: Our essay on how John Updike fans attempt to maintain his reputation.
As a poet, historian, critic, translator and editor of The New Republic, Malcolm Cowley was a genuine literary polymath, which is why it’s not surprising that he wrote eloquent letters. In one, for example, he described Larry McMurtry, who Cowley taught when McMurtry was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, as a “wild young man from Texas, expert in pornography.” In the Times, Dwight Garner reviews The Long Voyage, a new collection of Cowley’s letters.
Anthony Domestico, who studied under James Wood at Harvard, turns in a review of the critic’s latest non-fiction collection, The Fun Stuff. Aside from penning an astute review of the book, Domestico draws from his firsthand experience with Wood to pepper his write-up with details such as this: “While puzzling over a complex passage, he would vigorously rub the top of his head, as if hoping to coax interpretive brilliance from his bald spot like a genie from a lamp.” (Bonus: our own Lydia Kiesling takes a look at Wood’s latest for Bullet Media.)