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?
"I lost the first good novel I ever wrote to a computer disaster. It happened at a crucial time in my life. I was working nights, living in a mouse-infested tenement in Giuliani-era Harlem and still figuring out if I could even do this thing — become a writer for real." Mat Johnson on NPR's All Tech Considered blog about the ultimate authorial nightmare, and how he recovered from it. Pair with our review of Johnson's latest novel, Loving Day.
Now that you can purchase the letters of William Styron, you can note how especially funny (and sad) it is that Darkness Visible, the author’s book-of-self-help-slash-memoir-slash-confession, sold well enough to overshadow the novels that made his name.
Our love of The Atlantic's By Heart series continues with Azar Nafisi's contribution to the series: an essay on reading James Baldwin, the importance of literature to democracy, and how ultimately "we need literature to remind us how like each other we are, despite our differences." Pair with Justin Campbell's Millions essay on race, fatherhood and reading Baldwin.