“With each step, I had to remind myself to touch pavement again, as if in a moment’s forgetfulness I might slip the earth’s magnetic pull and go pinwheeling over Sydney Harbor and out to sea,” our own Michael Bourne writes in his Dispatches column at The Common, “Stanley Street.”
It’s funny and fitting that Madame Proust, in a letter now on display at the Morgan Library, implored her son to share persnickety details about what time he got up in the morning. Another thing the exhibition, which celebrates the hundredth anniversary of Swann’s Way, reveals: early drafts of the book used “biscottes” in place of “madeleine.”
Recommended reading: one essay on George Orwell‘s stomping grounds on the Scottish island where he wrote 1984 in the throes of a tubercular fever, and another on the tiny Indian town of Motihari where he was born.
We’ve covered the Atlantic series By Heart a number of times before. It features notable authors writing about their favorite passages. In the latest edition, Mary-Beth Hughes picks out a paragraph from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, about a poet who’s trying to cope with grief. Sample quote: “Reading Fitzgerald, I felt it was possible to write as I’d experienced dancing.”
The January issue of Asymptote is out, featuring an excellent interview with Year in Reading alumnus Junot Díaz about language acquisition and diasporic identity. As he puts it, “I live a life where both English and Spanish are in italics in my brain. It costs me no extra effort; it doesn’t feel unusual; it doesn’t feel like an infirmity, but it does strike me every now and then that there are people who don’t pick over their language the way I do, who aren’t so self-conscious of what they’re saying, who have a natural tongue.” Pair with Thea Lim’s Millions essay on race and gender in Díaz’s books.
Elizabeth Bishop famously exchanged letters with Robert Lowell so remarkable they were later collected and published (Words in Air). This Recording has prepared a selection of her letters to Lowell and others, including one edit focused on the year after a lover’s suicide. Pair with a meditation on the relevance of Bishop’s poetry at crucial life moments.