Last semester, at UC Riverside, the novelist Susan Straight began the class “Mixed-Race Literature and the American Experience” with a simple question: “How many of you are often asked, What are you?” In an essay about the class, she relates what they learned, which includes the observation that hair is weirdly important in America. (Related: The Millions published an essay by Straight on Toni Morrison’s Sula.)
“The striking thing about her search for God is that she sometimes finds him. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’s second chapter, after a kind of introduction, is titled 'Seeing.' There are two kinds, she explains. The common variety is active, where you strain, against the running babble of internal monologue, to pay attention to what’s actually in front of you. But, she tells us, ‘there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.’ You do not seek, you wait. It isn’t prayer; it is grace. The visions come to you, and they come from out of the blue.” On Annie Dillard’s turn to silence.
New this week is a debut collection of loosely linked stories that's been getting some attention. Military families are the common theme in Siobhan Fallon's You Know When the Men Are Gone. Another newly released debut is Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters about a Shakespeare scholar's three daughters, all named after characters from the Bard's plays. Also new this week, a tome dedicated to the "hot" condiment of the moment, The Sriracha Cookbook.
David Foster Wallace wrote the best bitter takedown (PDF) of the cruise ship industry ever, but he only had to endure a 7-night vacation. Imagine his horror, then, if he had been forced to spend significant time on The World, a $20,000+/month ship that continuously circumnavigates the world and has permanent passengers in its 165 private residences. For a more detailed glimpse at life on board the ship, check out Anthony Bourdain’s Gourmet piece on his 2003 visit.