The Mississippi was integral to Mark Twain’s fiction, so David Carkeet traced Twain’s path on the river in the new issue of Smithsonian. “What would Samuel Clemens have made of the Riverwalk? He was a grown child who readily took a God’s-eye view of life on earth. He would have loved it.” Pair with: Our essay on Twain’s travel writing.
It’s rare that a writer decides his new novel will be his last, but that’s exactly what Michael Faber has done with regards to his latest, which comes out this week. In the Times, he talks with Alexandra Alter about his decision, saying: “I felt that I had one more book in me that could be special and sincere and extraordinary, and that that would be enough.” It’s probably a good time to read our own Bill Morris on the history of literary retirements.
John Clare, “the peasant poet,” wrote wide-ranging poems on rural themes, distinguishing himself from his peers in the 19th-century literary scene in England. In 1830, in the midst of an episode of depression, he wrote a long polemic against the first-person pronoun, in the form of a letter to his friend Eliza Emmerson. In The Paris Review Daily, an excerpt of the letter.
"But poems are not poems if they make people feel dead. I want people to feel alive – even if it is alive with grief." The Guardian profiles poet Danez Smith about poetry; race, gender, and queerness; and their poetry collection, Don't Call Us Dead (a finalist for the National Book Award). Pair with: an essay on writing that gives shape and depth to victims of criminal injustice.
Over at Aeon, Jenny Davidson explores what makes a great sentence. As she puts it, “A great sentence makes you want to chew it over slowly in your mouth the first time you read it. A great sentence compels you to rehearse it again in your mind’s ear, and then again later on.” Pair with our own Michael Bourne’s essay on sentence structure for creative writers.