For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.
After winning a $100,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation, what do you do for an encore? How about staging “fifty days of lectures, discussions, and debates” about what the future ought to look like? How about enlisting the likes of Laurie Anderson, Samuel Delany, Rachel Kushner, and Norman Rush as ringmasters? How about having the entire thing take place in structures designed by artists José León Cerrillo and Adrián Villar Rojas? Triple Canopy‘s “Speculations” occupies MoMA’s P.S. 1 this summer
“My process for writing is the same, regardless of form: I abandon my children, I become a horrible husband, and a half-assed teacher. That’s what it all has in common.” Adam Johnson interviewed for Tin House in conjunction with the release of his new collection of short stories, Fortune Smiles.
“When is it plagiarism, when is it homage? Especially in creative writing, I get tripped up on this distinction. A trick for writer’s block: write an imitation, steal moves, learn by mimicry. For my own poem-writing, I turn to other texts all the time. I pull language, take a word I like, sometimes fragments of phrases and twist them. I get inspired, I want to model after poems I fell madly for.” On discovering another writer’s plagiarism.
Do you ever find yourself skimming novels looking for exciting words and hyperlinks? You aren’t the only one mixing up the digital and print reading worlds. Neuroscientists believe we are developing new brain circuits for skimming online information that are rewiring how we’ve approached reading for centuries. Pair with: Our essay on how writing is also changing to fit our fragmented attention span.
Proclaiming the death of the book has been in vogue nearly as long as the book itself. Leah Price presents a short history of our pessimism for the future of the written word.
Disappointed by how few of the dozens of official book cover designs of Nabokov’s Lolita “correspond thematically to the novel,” blog Venus febriculosa is holding a book cover design contest (pdf) to create a new cover for Lolita and is awarding a $350 prize. (Thx, John)