Depending on your political persuasion, this is either good news or bad news: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel will jump in a freezing Lake Michigan if schoolchildren in his city read at least 2 million books this summer.
One of the more common questions that comes up in The Nervous Breakdown’s self-interviews is what the subjects consider to be the hardest part of the writing life. The most recent edition sees Jac Jemc, whose latest came out last week, admit that time is what foils her: “Everything takes longer than I think it will, more drafts than I think it will.” This might be a good time to look back on some earlier examples of the form.
In a head-scratching piece of writing for the New Statesman, Dave Eggers (whose novel The Circle just cracked our Top Ten) reflects on a cross-country drive he took from Jeddah to Riyadh. The journey, and in particular a comment made by his chauffeur, caused Eggers to ponder the significance of his nationality, his ability to perceive danger, and the intentions of others. The short of it: Some people from other countries are nice. Who knew?
Perhaps best known for her fiction, specifically her classic The Group, Mary McCarthy became a novelist almost by chance. “McCarthy was good at recycling – a term which she used herself – and good, also, as she admitted, at plagiarizing her own life. Nevertheless, her fiction lives, and some of it has been highly influential.” Margaret Drabble takes us through McCarthy’s major works of fiction, featured in Mary McCarthy: The Complete Fiction which was released this year in a deluxe collection for the very first time.
“Over the course of our conversation, I’ve come to understand that he has not written (Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings) to provoke or to engender a self-serving sense of shock; he has written with a belief in the possibilities of liminal space and in the revelations that occur at the point of tension. The result is a book that jars, unequivocally, and that disquietingly brings to the surface the anguish of past and present America.” Stephen O’Connor’s poetic reimagining of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings has certainly raised some eyebrows. This interview with Melody Nixon at BOMB gives O’Connor a platform from which to explain his idea.
Punctuation can be as important as the prose. At Vulture, Kathryn Schultz discusses the five best punctuation marks in literature. The list includes this delightful parenthetical from Lolita, “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three…”
Out this week: Bed-Stuy Is Burning by Brian Platzer; Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson; Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong; A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma; Knots by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Pages for Her by Sylvia Brownrigg; and Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen. For more on these and other new titles, go read our just-published book preview.
Recommended Reading: Mary Addison Hackett reflects on heroin and harm reduction at n+1. “It is clear that no one — no neuroscientist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or physician — can explain what addiction is or account for its contradictions. Tobacco, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, MDMA, amphetamines — are they inherently addictive? Common knowledge suggests they are. But all around me I see exceptions more than the rule, my friends who use, have used, some or all of these drugs, including heroin, casually. I, too, am one of the exceptions.”