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.'”
Can the art of teaching art actually be exhibited? A new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston about the one-time Asheville, NC institution Black Mountain College asks just such questions. Black Mountain College was a controversial, short-lived bastion of free-thought and artistic expression which hosted such figures as Josef Albers, John Cage, and Robert Creeley from 1933 to 1957.
“Over the years, Gross has done some 13,000 interviews, and the sheer range of people she has spoken to, coupled with her intelligence and empathy, has given her the status of national interviewer. Think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor.” Terry Gross sits down with The New York Times Magazine in honor of her 40th anniversary hosting Fresh Air.
It doesn't get much better than James Wood on Joy Williams: "Nothing is stranger (and funnier) in Williams’s work than her details. Like her forms, they only resemble conventional realist details, an atmosphere perhaps encouraged by her flat, functional sentences (“They danced. Sam had quite a bit to drink”). The details are frequently surreal, magical, hallucinogenic, delivered in a cool, dispassionate, routine manner."
Jonathan Franzen's 2011 Kenyon commencement speech, published this weekend in the New York Times, covers love, consumerism, and narcissism in the digital age. If you're concerned with critical reception, looks like you're not a creator of "serious art and literature," in Franzen's eyes.