In the annals of Southern literature, Elizabeth Spencer isn’t as well-known as Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, but she is, Wilton Barnhardt writes, “one of America’s best short-story writers.” The 92-year-old author’s new collection marks “65 years and counting of superb writing,” he argues.
“The idea that a 'book of the year' can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer.” Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian about why the Man Booker Prize “is bad for writers.” And in these pages, Mark O'Connell asks why we care about literary awards at all.
"Should we understand a photographic document as being first and foremost an artifact of memory, a light-written ghost? Or is it more important to stress its status as a material thing created from pigment, silver, emulsion, paper, plastic, glass, silicon sensors, pulses of electricity? Or is the photograph primarily an opportunity to take or make, an arena for a special type of action?" On Polaroids, instantaneous photography, and memory over at The Nation.
Practically everyone with a pulse loves Patti Smith. Celebrate Sunday by listening to her speak about Virginia Woolf's cane, Charles Dickens's pen, and a few other literary talismans. Here's a handy Spotify playlist which gathers every song from Smith's award-winning memoir Just Kids.
As a cultural center with a very different makeup than the various home bases of the publishing world, Los Angeles often gets short shrift in discussions of literary cities. At the LARB (naturally), Sarah-Jane Stratford writes about the city’s importance to speculative literature, with an emphasis on the works of Ray Bradbury. Related: Tanjil Rashid on Bradbury’s Middle East connection.
“There’s much to be commended in the work done by FiveThirtyEight, or even Vox,” writes Millions contributor Brian Ted Jones. “But making problems seem smaller then they are is a harm that outweighs all the good.” He goes on to tie together the rise of “explainer” sites, the problem with “hashtag activism,” and also references to Louis C.K., Teju Cole, and Leslie Jamison.
Haruki Murakami retired his running shoes to walk to Kobe and rediscover his hometown. "Strictly speaking, it’s not my home town any more. I feel a deep sense of loss at this fact, as if the axis of my memories is faintly, but audibly, creaking within me. It’s a physical sensation," he writes in an essay for Granta.