Caution: Too much reading can lead to retinal tears. At The New York Times, Charles McGrath recounts the perils of being a National Book Award judge and having to read 407 books in just four months.
“By now, you are probably asking yourself, Did these two ever talk about anything serious? Of course, we did. We talked about how writing a poem is no different from taking out a frying pan and concocting a dish out of the ingredients available in the house, how in poetry, as in cooking, it’s all a matter of subtle little touches that come from long experience or are the result of sudden inspiration.” Charles Simic writes movingly about his friend, the late poet Mark Strand, and their various schemes, from buying palazzos to founding a gastronomic poetry movement, for The New York Review of Books.
In the nineties, when Jack Livings was teaching English in China, he was gathering material for The Dog, his short story collection that recently won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize. In an interview in the WSJ, he talks about his research process, Chinese idioms and Uighur-Han relations. You could also read Casey Walker’s syllabus for modern China. (h/t The Rumpus)
“[Christa] Wolf was a committed dissident in the GDR (East Germany) and a forceful voice resisting Western triumphalism after reunification. It would seem like some sort of explanation was owed to the public. Yet how does one give an account of oneself when the link to the past, to the psychological and cultural backdrop of such fateful decisions, is not even subjectively available?” On City of Angels: Or, the Overcoat of Dr. Freud.
“The rest of the morning went like that. We did synchronized clapping. We did active listening. We did a role-play exercise in which I was a girl waiting for a bus and Karloff was a masher, but when I started flirting back, she didn’t like it. I got four more cups of coffee and felt brokenhearted when my bottle gave up its last drop.” Philip Marlowe attends a court-mandated women’s studies workshop.