“Repressed homosexual yearnings certainly would account for some of the more striking of [Franz] Kafka’s darker preoccupations,” writes John Banville in his investigation of the writer’s personal life and psychology.
"A few weeks ago, I texted my writing group, 'All I really want is to be just famous enough to have my own celebrity book club.' I was kind of kidding. But I kind of wasn’t. Because, like portion-packaged organic snacks delivered to your door, isn’t book club ownership one step closer to having it all?" Laura Briskman on the faux intimacy of celebrity book clubs, as more and more celebrities start their own post Oprah.
In the past ten years, we've seen many attempts to construct a taxonomy of the hipster, which is why it’s refreshing to come across a novel account of the term’s origins. At The Atlantic, Karen Swallow Prior makes a convincing case that T.S. Eliot, in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, invented the “cuffed-trouser urbanite on the hunt for authenticity.”
The New York Times best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell recognizes that printed books can be beautiful, covetable objects that enhance the experience of reading. He hired Brian Rea, a frequent Times Magazine illustrator, and Paul Sahre, a designer who also frequently contributes to the magazine, to collaborate on the visuals for a new box set, Malcolm Gladwell: Collected.
"I began to wonder: what would a manifesto for bad poetry look like? Would it differ either superficially or deeply from the art’s graver manifestos? It really wouldn’t have to. It would merely have to persuade, and persuasion sounds very much the same whether it is honest or dishonest. If it was any good it would hold great attractiveness as a snappy piece of writing, but, if followed, it would be certain to produce bad poetry. Some harmless sophistry. In this it would be more effective than any positive manifesto, because, if guided well, no-one who sets out to write a bad poem is going to accidentally write an excellent one." Erik Kennedy lays out a manifesto for bad poetry, titled "Precepts for Perfection in Poetry," for The Rumpus. For a counterpoint, pair with our own Nick Ripatrazone's look at very good and very sad poetry, "The Saddest Poem Ever Written."
New this week: Awl co-founder Choire Sicha’s debut Very Recent History; Elizabeth Cohen's new story collection The Hypothetical Girl; Elect H. Mouse State Judge by Nelly Reifler; The Virgins by Pamela Erens (which Erens herself wrote about for us on Friday); The Rathbones by Janice Clark; and Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain. For more on these and other upcoming titles, check out our Great 2013 Second-half Book Preview.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better -- h/t Dan Farrely]