Butterflies were more than just a symbol in Lolita; they were also Vladimir Nabokov’s lifelong passion. At Nautilus, Mary Ellen Hannibal traces Nabokov’s butterfly obsession, which eventually resulted in the writer publishing 18 papers on lepidoptery.
"To say that late Victorian poetry is bleak would be akin to remarking that Wilkie Collins had a decent knack for plotting a novel. These poems are freighted with Gothic overtones, and it is not uncommon for some supernatural phenomenon to intrude upon what had started out as a seemingly harmless quatrain. We often encounter Death himself—or the Devil—who is something of a literary celebrity for the decadent poets. But what marks the best of these poems is that the outré is in service to something that we can think of as more desperate, and, wouldn’t you know, human." Over at The Boston Review, an online-only essay looking at the peculiarities of Victorian decadent poetry.
Are you still not following Pentametron, even after I urged you to do so last week? (And even after New York Magazine added it to its Approval Matrix?) Well, if that’s the case, I shouldn’t even share Earwickr with you. You don’t deserve to read Finnegans Wake spelled out on your Twitter timeline, 140 characters at a time. (Bonus: Michael Chabon reviews James Joyce’s final work for The New York Review of Books.)
Recommended Reading: Robert Macfarlane at The Guardian on what it means to be living in the Anthropocene age–in which human influence on the planet is permanent and profound–and how our writers and artists are responding to the crisis.
“I cannot help feeling, on being invited to contextualize my own fiction, that the least qualified person possible has been asked. It is more still: hesitance, dread, that as a blind man in a failing aircraft I have been offered the yoke. I imagine it is the same for other writers, for the very fact that you write a story, and not a critical essay, suggests that near everything you hope to say lies outside the bounds of explicit statement.” Despite all that, here’s an essay by Greg Jackson at Granta in which he attempts to contextualize his own fiction.
"[E]ach video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria." The Paris Review has a new video series called "My First Time," in which big-name authors talk about getting their start. Helen DeWitt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sheila Heti, a chain-smoking Karl Ove Knausgaard – what more could anyone want? More origin stories, that's what! Six writers – Colum McCann, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Justin Taylor, and Anthony Marra – look back on their first books for us.
Recommended reading: Brandon Ambrosino interviews Justin Martin, author of Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians, about, well, Walt Whitman and America's first bohemians.