An English student at the University of Texas has unearthed previously unpublished writing from Jupiter Hammon, the first published African-American poet. Some of Hammon’s work – which dates back to 1760 – can be found online courtesy of The Poetry Foundation: “A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death” and “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley.”
Out this week: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran; A Mother’s Tale by Phillip Lopate; Huck Out West by Robert Coover; Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin; The Midnight Cool by Lydia Peelle; The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino; Lotus by Lijia Zhang; and Collected Stories by E.L. Doctorow. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest book preview.
“The entire manuscript was written with the E-type bar of the typewriter tied down; thus making it impossible for that letter to be printed. This was done so that none of that vowel might slip in, accidentally; and many did try to do so!” Abe Books tells the tale of Gadsby, a self-published 50,000-word novel written without using the letter “e.” Its author, Ernest Vincent Wright, won some notoriety when he accomplished the feat – called a lipogram – in 1939, although it’s unlikely Wright could have foreseen that individual copies of his book would eventually fetch prices upward of $1,200. And if it’s literary hijinks you’re after, definitely read our own Anne Yoder on the work of Georges Perec, who wrote a lipogram of his own in 1969.
What do you do if you’re Leo Tolstoy, 20 years old and being treated in isolation for venereal disease? Start a diary, of course. Because you’re Tolstoy, you’ll probably use this diary to make a plan of your day, and then comment on how your actual activities line up with your ideals (“not quite,” usually). And, to be as Tolstoy-ish as possible, why not rate all your actions on a general moral scale? An example: “Arose somewhat late and read, but did not have time to write. Poiret came, I fenced, and did not send him away (sloth and cowardice). Ivanov came, I spoke with him for too long (cowardice). Koloshin (Sergei) came to drink vodka, I did not escort him out (cowardice).” And so on. For some long-term perspective, pair with The Millions‘s perennially popular “Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? 8 Experts on Who’s Greater.”
“Our Aesthetic Categories, though, argues on behalf of aesthetic experiences that aren’t quite so awe-inspiring or rare. Sitting before your computers or walking the streets of your town, you don’t encounter beautiful things as frequently as you do interesting, momentarily arresting ones—and as for the sublime, when was the last time you experienced catharsis? Instead, [Sianne] Ngai considers our ‘minor’ aesthetic experiences, the ones that make up our day.” In the era of adorkable and nerd chic, Slate looks at Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting.
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
“There are many ways to define ‘success’ as a writer,” and Jeffrey Condran writes about his own path to and definition of writerly success for The Missouri Review‘s blog. Hint: it has something to do with craft, something to do with editing, and a lot to do with a certain magazine.