Whether you admire the work of e.e. cummings or think of him mainly as the inspiration for your high school’s worst poet, you’ll enjoy this excerpt of Susan Cheever’s new biography, which touches on the poet’s later years and his relationship with Cheever’s father. The two (contrasting) money quotes here are Malcolm Cowley’s claim that cummings was “the most brilliant monologuist I have known” and this exasperated question posed by Helen Vendler: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?
The Guardian offers a long, worthwhile profile of Dave Eggers, who suddenly is being considered and reconsidered seemingly everywhere. “The McSweeney’s empire… often gets characterised as a kind of cabal: a hip, young gang. [Eggers] and [wife Vendela] Vida, whose writerly circle includes Nick Hornby, Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and Joyce Carol Oates, tend to be seen as tastemakers. He thinks this is ridiculous.” (Thanks Emre!)
Recommended Reading/Listening: Maia Evrona’s translation and recitation of a poem by Abraham Sutzkever, who has been called one of the primary poets of the Holocaust. Gabriel Brownstein’s essay for The Millions on what it means to be a “Jewish writer” is a good complementary piece.
Out this week: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta; After the Parade by Lori Ostlund; Hotel by Joanna Walsh; The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi; Succession by Livi Michael; Selected Later Poems by C.K. Williams; and Notes on the Assemblage by Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
“I thought there were would be more in this writing life, an easier path to walk. I write those words and know they are the unwise thoughts of my younger self and that I am still too stubborn to give up on my dreams. When Annie Dillard invited me outside for that smoke, she knew very well what it would mean to a young writer like me. She intuited my ambitions and it was her way of encouraging me.” This essay is ostensibly about smoking cigarettes and playing catch with Annie Dillard, but it’s also about the incredibly important role that an established writer can play in helping a struggling up-and-comer.
The New Yorker lovefest continues: Emdashes is compiling a list of the New Yorker articles that have appeared in Houghton Mifflin’s annual Best American Essays series. It’s a perfect guide for dipping into your Complete New Yorker set. Update: Emdashes has also done a “short stories” version of the list.My cousin Mitch produces a survey of state quarters. Arkansas: thumbs down. Connecticut: thumbs up!The Regret the Error blog (which tracks all sorts of funny newspaper corrections) has produced a book with a serious sounding subtitle.I would love to get my hands on Transit Maps of the World, an encyclopedic book that’s already been noted by Boing Boing and kottke.