Parentheses aren’t just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita‘s “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.” Pair with: Vulture’s “The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature.”
Can’t get enough of Orange is the New Black? Neither could The Missouri Review. Their new blog series, Literature on Lockdown, shares narratives from those who teach or write in prisons. This week’s post comes from Ace Boggess, a poet who spent five years in a West Virginia prison. “One thing about being a writer in prison is that you have not lost everything. You still have that driving need to speak whatever truth you know in whatever way you can. No one can take that away from you, not even the State.”
Jonathan Franzen’s 2011 Kenyon commencement speech, published this weekend in the New York Times, covers love, consumerism, and narcissism in the digital age. If you’re concerned with critical reception, looks like you’re not a creator of “serious art and literature,” in Franzen’s eyes.
Trevor Berrett, the man behind The Mookse and the Gripes, and now The Worlds and Works of Shakespeare, is conducting a giveaway for the NYRB Classics edition of Mark Van Doren’s Shakespeare. Conditions to enter are enumerated on his blog, which you should certainly bookmark if you’re a fan of the Bard.
Steven Pinker‘s The Better Angels of Our Nature posits that human violence is becoming less and less common in civilized culture. If your interest was piqued by the book’s review in The New York Times, you will no doubt be interested in his Edge Master Class as well.