Sometimes, Virginia Woolf took a break from her busy schedule of constant brilliance in order to write children’s stories for her nephews’ newspaper, The Charleston Bulletin. A taste: “When in a good and merry mood Trisy would seize a dozen eggs, and a bucket of flour, coerce a cow to milk itself, and then mixing the ingredients toss them 20 times high up over the skyline, and catch them as they fell in dozens and dozens and dozens of pancakes.”
Throughout the 80s and 90s journalists turned hip hop into a literary movement. Pitchfork dives into that time and explores their legacy and impact on journalism and other literary forms. "Eager to extend the outer boundaries of their creativity, many of these writers would go on to ink novels, memoirs, short stories, scripts, and poetry, much of which stayed true to the language and attitude of hip-hop, as though their words were drafted to the sound of a boom-bap beat. It all added up to a low-key literary movement that writer and activist Kevin Powell has dubbed, 'The Word Movement.'" Includes a great reading list at the end.
On this date 109 years ago, a cartoonist first paired the letter "Z" to the act of sleeping, beating out other attempts to write out the sound of slumber such as the tenacious "g-r-r-k-k-k-k" and the elegant "z-z-z-c-r-r-k-k-k-k."
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Peter Birkenhead goes back to Nabokov's Speak, Memory and considers "the way our memories tell themselves to us: in hints, collisions, and rushes, overlapping, upside down, out of order." Pair with our own Garth Risk Hallberg's piece on reading Ada, or Ardor.
Expats of all stripes have trouble defining the word “home,” which is true even when the expat is someone like James Wood, who left England for America in the ‘90s and set up a life for himself in Massachusetts. In the LRB, he describes the odd pain of emigration, lamenting that his "English reality" has faded into memory. (You could also read Charles Finch on trying to live up to Wood’s standards.)
Out this week: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson; The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter; Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, edited by Meghan Daum; At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen; The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak; and The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2015 Book Preview.