Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there’s no Wild West.
“In publishing, we see this play out in a number of ways. Marginalized writers are told by white editors, we need your stories now more than ever, as if we have not always needed them urgently. We are told our experiences are timely, exotic, and trendy. We are told our stories are not authentic if our characters do not suffer, as if the only way to prove that we are human is to bleed.” Natalia Sylvester on the erasure that comes when marginalized writers are constantly being told by the publishing industry and others that your book about your marginalized identity is ‘timely’.
“Maybe the optimists are right; maybe poetry does help you live your life. And maybe they are more right than they know, and it rounds you out for death.” Andrew O’Hagan writes for The Guardian about falling in love with poetry and coming to see the poet as “a risk-taker, a miracle-maker, a moral panjandrum and a convict of the senses.”