“What did Shakespeare’s English sound like to Shakespeare?” A father and son team are working to answer this question, recover Shakespeare’s original pronunciation and perform his plays in the new-old style, and lest this sound like a silly exercise in scholarship consider that “two-thirds of Shakespeare’s sonnets…. have rhymes that only work in [Old Pronunciation].”
“Me? He wants me to give him advice? But why? I still have no idea what I am doing. Then I realized that I did, at least, have eight more years of a writing practice that had run in tandem with a life of odd jobs, graduate school, starting a business, traveling, etc. I thought about an anecdote my friend Daniel once told me about what happened when Ian McEwan was asked to give advice to a young writer just starting out. He simply said, ‘Be successful.’” Catherine Lacey gives advice to a not-much-younger writer.
“How can you write a complete story without a conventional plot? We often hear that in short stories, the main character must change. But in some stories, including some by Grace Paley, the characters don’t change. Instead, her stories change the reader. You’re different by the time you reach the end.” We’ve told you about The Atlantic’s “By Heart” series plenty of times before. This week, it’s Alice Mattison, who touches on everything from character development to the strange stories of Grace Paley.
The CIA was known for unorthodox espionage techniques during the Cold War, but using Doctor Zhivago to undermine the U.S.S.R. is one of the strangest. The CIA helped print and distribute the banned book because it would make Soviets wonder “what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”
If you didn’t like Elif Batuman‘s gut-punch to MFA writing (“Get A Real Degree”) in this issue of the London Review of Books, might I suggest Jenny Diski’s cudgeling of self-help lit in the LRB’s Diary essay?