When did Samuel Beckett’s “fail better” become the motto of Silicon Valley? At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell traces the history of the phrase. “Fail Better, with its TEDishly counterintuitive feel, is the literary takeaway par excellence; it’s usefully suggestive, too, of the corporate propaganda of productivity, with its appeals to ‘think different’ or ‘work smarter’ or ‘just do it.'”
For Public Books, Matthew Clair considers authoritative black knowledge in intellectual practices and “the logic of racial authenticity,” which “stipulates both that black intellectuals have a particular responsibility to represent, in both senses of that word, ‘their’ people, and that, as racial insiders, they are uniquely capable of doing so.”
“Eleven years later, the Atlantic Monthly editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made a similar request to an obscure, retiring poet named Emily Dickinson who had written a letter asking if her verses ‘breathed.’ Her response was much like Melville’s, if typically elliptical: ‘Could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?'” The age-old problem: how writers deal with publicity.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the possibilities for contemporary war literature, especially in light of the success of Phil Klay‘s Redeployment. Now Flavorwire considers “a crop of fiction that approaches the question of American intelligence, torture, and military intervention slantwise,” particularly Mark Doten’s The Infernal, which was included in our 2015 Book Preview.