Piggybacking off a brief aside in Ian Frazier’s new review of James Agee’s Cotton Tenants, Claire Kelley explores an odd and intriguing question: was Agee related to Walt Whitman? (Related: Mallory Ortberg on the probability that Whitman did the dirty with Oscar Wilde.)
Lolita has been, for decades, a great inspiration to cover designers, and all those great covers inspired architect John Bertram to hold his own cover design contest to see who could best re-imagine Nabokov’s classic. The resulting competition has now inspired a book, coming in August, with a cover by designers Sulki & Min that references a letter Nabokov sent to his American publisher, Walter J. Minton of Putnam, in April 1959 about the cover design for Lolita. “I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls. If we cannot find that kind of artistic and virile painting, let us settle for an immaculate white jacket (rough texture paper instead of the usual glossy kind), with LOLITA in bold black lettering.” More: An interview with Bertram.
Not only does China employ some two million censors to monitor microblogs and the internet, but the nation also has a formidable staff – both official and unofficial – to monitor literature and print publications. Indeed, reports Andrew Jacobs for The New York Times, “It is the editors at Chinese publishing houses themselves who often turn out to have the heaviest hands. ‘Self-censorship has become the most effective weapon,’ said the editor in chief of a prominent publishing house in Beijing … ‘If you let something slip through that catches the attention of a higher-up, it can be a career killer.’”
Yesterday we noted that The Pale King is now available for pre-order. It turns out another new David Foster Wallace book will be out before the long-awaited final novel hits shelves. In December, Columbia University Press will put out Wallace’s undergrad thesis Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. From the publisher description: “Long before he probed the workings of time, human choice, and human frailty in Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant philosophical critique of Richard Taylor’s argument for fatalism. In 1962, Taylor used six commonly accepted presuppositions to imply that humans have no control over the future. Not only did Wallace take issue with Taylor’s method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but he also called out a semantic trick at the heart of Taylor’s argument.”
“When is it plagiarism, when is it homage? Especially in creative writing, I get tripped up on this distinction. A trick for writer’s block: write an imitation, steal moves, learn by mimicry. For my own poem-writing, I turn to other texts all the time. I pull language, take a word I like, sometimes fragments of phrases and twist them. I get inspired, I want to model after poems I fell madly for.” On discovering another writer’s plagiarism.
It’s not Christmas, but it’s close. It’s time for the Literary Review’s annual Bad Sex Award Shortlist to be released. This year’s finalists include My Education author Susan Choi and famous folk singer Woody Guthrie among others, and the winner(?) will be announced on December 3rd. (Bonus: Their Twitter account is sharing particularly awful excerpts as well.)