Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
In an interview for The Atlantic, Greil Marcus talks about his new book The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years. Later on, however, he tosses off his gloves to dismiss the bits about Pauline Kael in James Wolcott’s memoir Lucking Out. “I’m not really interested in what Jim has to say about Pauline,” Marcus says. “He became an acolyte of Pauline’s in a way that was embarrassing to read, when he was mimicking her and celebrating her in The Village Voice.“
“Fiction is messier. Essay is, for me, an attempt at a kind of clarity. I have a very messy and chaotic mind, but when I’m writing an essay I find I can exert a bit more control over it.” The The Guardian published a Q&A with Zadie Smith with questions from fellow authors, politicians, and fans. Smith’s upcoming essay collection, Feel Free, is featured in the first half of our 2018 Great Book Preview.
In conjunction with the new documentary film “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (reviewed by our own Bill Morris last week), New York’s Third Streaming Gallery will be hosting a conversation on the role of art and artists in contemporary cultural activism. The discussion will be held tonight at 7pm, and it will include Rico Gaston, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, Donna Murch, and Minkah Makalani.