Looking for a way to spice up your short story? Add a ghost. “This is going to sound strange, but what your story really needs is a ghost,” Lorrie Moore said in an interview with The New York Times. She discussed her new professorship at Vanderbilt and her new short story collection, Bark, which, yes, does contain a ghost story.
Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
Over at The New Yorker, Roa Lynn recalls going to Pablo Neruda’s home and getting him to write her a poem: “Would he read a few of the poems that I had brought with me? To my delight, he said that after lunch he would take his customary nap and after that he would read our poems. If he liked them, he would write something for our book.” Pair with this Millions essay about Neruda’s house in Isla Negra.
“On my manhood rests a tattooed / portrait of Mr. President. / My beloved found that out after we wed. / She was utterly gutted, / Inconsolable.” Poet Maung Saungkha may have to prove in a Myanmar courtroom that he doesn’t have a tattoo of the nation’s president on his genitals.
If you read my Year In Reading, and if you’re a really impulsive person, you probably already subscribed to The Virginia Quarterly Review. However if you needed more than just my testimonial in order to open up your wallet, perhaps their official list of “The Best Writing in VQR in 2012” will sway you.