Coulrophobes take heed! You’re not scared of clowns because they’re inherently dark, or even because you caught a few minutes of Stephen King’s IT on television. In fact, you probably owe your fear of clowns to a fellow named Joseph Grimaldi, the “Homo erectus of clown evolution.” When this progenitor died in 1837, a young Charles Dickens “was charged with editing his memoirs.” The resulting portrait, relays Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, was what ultimately “water[ed] the seeds in popular imagination of the scary clown.”
Coincident with the release of her new novel, Marie-Helene Bertino published an excerpt in the latest issue of Granta. It features, among other things, a character using the phrase “better-him-than-me kind of park.” You could also read Bertino’s interview with Jessica Gross, which followed the publication of her debut book of short stories.
From The Things They Carried to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, veteran literary fiction has always been popular, yet women are almost nowhere to be found in war literature. At The New York Times, Cara Hoffman argues that leaving women out of combat literature makes returning from war even more isolating. “They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home.”
Amazon has unveiled its “Kindle Singles” store. Says Amazon: “Typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words, each Kindle Single is intended to allow a single killer idea — well researched, well argued and well illustrated — to be expressed at its natural length.” In practice, this appears to mean short stories as well as journalistic pieces that have (perhaps) been expanded upon. For example, a piece from n+1 is included, “Octomom and the Politics of Babies” by Mark Greif. Amazon writes that in this piece Greif “updates his insightful essay from last spring, where only the journal’s 10,000 readers had access to his dead-on critique of the American media culture that produced its own eight-headed monster.” Bottom line: Amazon is fishing for higher quality content at the low price points that Amazon readers have come to crave.
“Language on a daily basis is being recycled. Our students are learning the language of the old and new masters; they are taking them in, mixing their words with the language they know, creating something new. Yet something there remains. Something familiar. Something like a forgotten first kiss. Like a well-known song sung in a different language.” Ira Sukrungruang on “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Deep Reading and Mimicry, With an Ending that Totally Plagiarizes Wallace Stevens.” After all, who doesn’t want to plagiarize Wallace Stevens?