When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
“Should we understand a photographic document as being first and foremost an artifact of memory, a light-written ghost? Or is it more important to stress its status as a material thing created from pigment, silver, emulsion, paper, plastic, glass, silicon sensors, pulses of electricity? Or is the photograph primarily an opportunity to take or make, an arena for a special type of action?” On Polaroids, instantaneous photography, and memory over at The Nation.
As you may have heard, Twitter went public last week, which means a lot of people are trying to figure out just what its IPO means for social media. Over at n+1, Benjamin Kunkel proposes that social media, by its very nature, cannot be profitable, and thus should be administered by the state as a public good.
Whether or not you’ve read Grace Paley, you’re likely to appreciate this George Saunders essay about her, which justifies his contention that she’s “one of the great writers of voice of the last century.” You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg’s tribute to Paley upon her death.
Villanelle Bot, a Twitter bot that composes poems in villanelle form, is publishing the automated poetry on their blog. The bot uses Twitter posts from random people, then stitches together all lines that end in certain words to form a full poem. You could also check out our piece on the best of literary Twitter.