By now the overlap between writers and drug addicts is pretty well-known, but it wasn’t so well-known back when Thomas De Quincey wrote Confessions of an English Opium Eater. In the essay, De Quincey admitted that not only was he addicted to opium, he suspected he’d ingested more of the substance than any other man save Coleridge. (Incidentally, we reviewed a novel by Year in Reading alumnus Jeet Thayil that largely took place in an opium den.)
What is the function of the art critic, anyway? According to Barry Schwabsky at The Nation, it is not “making or breaking” an artist, but rather “opening up perspectives without … belaboring them.” For the critically minded among you, here’s a Millions review of A.O. Scott’s new book Better Living Through Criticism.
Thriller writer James Patterson was set to publish a novel in November about an attempt on his author colleague Stephen King‘s life, subtly titled The Murder of Stephen King. Following reports of real-life threats against King, however, the book has been scuttled. After you’ve read that tale of high dudgeon, see also our editor-in-chief Lydia Kiesling’s essay, “Everything I Know About America I Learned from Stephen King.”
“Why do we love our writing teachers so much? I think it’s because they come along when we need them most, when we are young and vulnerable and are tentatively approaching this craft that our culture doesn’t have much respect for, but which we are beginning to love. They have so much power. They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead do something almost holy, which we never forget: they take us seriously.” George Saunders offers a timeline of his writing education over at The New Yorker.