The Olivier Awards (aka the London Tonys) went down last night, and a certain theatrical adaptation won a record seven awards. The book that inspired that adaptation? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist's chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
"In the 1970s it circulated among Left Bank intellectuals, including Sartre and Bernard-Henri Lévy, as an aid to productive writing. In 1981 it was listed as a controlled substance in the US and in 1986, after it was scheduled under the WHO Convention on Psychotropic Substances, it was removed from prescription sale." The London Review of Books reviews two histories about the role of drugs in the fighting of wars, Blitzed: Drugs In the Third Reich by Norman Ohler and Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare by Łukasz Kamieński Hurst. Both pay particular attention to Captagon (the name a portmanteau of "captain" and "pentagon"), a pharmaceutical that has become common throughout Eastern Europe, the Gulf States, India, and China, and by 2014 "had become a significant source of funding for all sides in Syria’s civil war."
"The only way to avenge all the things white people did to you was to get your kid into Harvard. You bided your time. You worked your ass off, day after day, year after year." Our own Marie Myung-Ok Lee has a new short story in Joyland called "La Piñata" (and of course you can also read her in these pages, too).
Most actors don't go on The Tonight Show to promote literature, but leave it to James Franco to be the first to brag about getting his poetry M.F.A. to Jimmy Fallon. He discussed his new book, Directing Herbert White, and his mentor Frank Bidart. For more on the Bidart/Franco friendship, check out our own Janet Potter's recap of attending an event featuring the two writers.
From The Rumpus, a new short (short) story by George Saunders, excerpted from Life is Short - Art is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity, with an introduction by David Shields and Elizabeth Cooperman.