Why did Richard Brautigan’s friends eventually stop inviting him to parties? Was it because he got drunk? Was it because he brought too many friends? Or was it because, as Michael LaPointe suggests in his review of Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan, he liked to pack a revolver?
“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.
You may have not known there’s a national arm wrestling championship. Joshua Davis found out when he saw an eye-catching flyer. When he found himself drafted onto Team USA, he turned the experience into his first big magazine piece. At The Rumpus, an interview with the author of Spare Parts.
Historians N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain have done us all a serious solid by assembling a syllabus of readings around “what many simply call ‘Trumpism’: personal and political gain marred by intolerance, derived from wealth, and rooted in the history of segregation, sexism, and exploitation.” The self-directed course contains readings from more than 100 scholars – including Audre Lorde, Aziz Ansari, and Ta-Nehisi Coates – and aims to “introduce observers to the past and present conditions that allowed Trump to seize electoral control of a major American political party.”
“The clash of genre values is fundamental to the novelistic experience. That’s how we ought to be thinking about our books. Instead of asking whether a comic book could be “as valuable” as King Lear, we ought to ask how the values of tragedy and romance might collide.” Joshua Rothman writes about the coming “collapse of the genre system” and our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s National Book Award short-listed Station Eleven for The New Yorker.
The essay is more popular than ever. At Salon, Michele Filgate talks to Leslie Jamison (author of The Empathy Exams, here’s our review) and Roxane Gay (author of the forthcoming Bad Feminist) about the power of the genre. Gay believes our interest in essays is because of a “cultural preoccupation with the exposure of the self.” They also discuss if we’re in a golden age of women essayists. “Sometimes when men write about private feeling, it’s seen as exploratory or daring, and when women write about private feeling it’s seen as limited or in the vein of a kind of circumscribed emotional writing,” Jamison says.