Writing a novel is an all-consuming project, so can you imagine not telling anyone? At The New York Times, Alice Mattison discusses keeping her novels secrets until at least the third draft. "If I talk about the book, I believe — I cannot help believing — my characters will be angry, and will no longer confide in me about their embarrassing, troubled lives." On another side of the secrecy spectrum, Emma Straub writes about what it's like to keep a personal secret even as her literary life was booming.
"How could we possibly trust any creature that comes into the world wearing such a caul of ambiguity? That’s “essayists.” Four hundred and four years later, they continue to flourish." John Jeremiah Sullivan offers a loose history of the essay, essayists, and all their many contradictions in a piece for The New Yorker.
Attn Twitterers: Some folks have been following me @cmaxmagee, but starting today we'll be using @The_Millions for the occasional books- and Millions-related "tweet." If you are the twittering type, throw a "follow" our way (and spread the word). (Thanks to my brother Phil for securing and holding onto @The_Millions until I finally got around to using it.)
“He taught me that poetry can be anything and with that comes great freedom.” Reminiscences by a former student of the poet John Ashbery upon his death. And for a contemporary take on the question of just what, exactly, poetry is and/or might be, see our recent conversation between Jill Bialosky and Matthew Zapruder.