Recommended Reading: All of the New York Times Book Review’s “Money” issue is worth a look, but in particular I recommend checking out Chris Ware’s original graphic short story. (Bonus: the Building Stories author recently contributed to our Year In Reading series.)
This past Wednesday Tracy K. Smith officially began her term as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. After adding her name to the guest book traditionally signed by poet laureates upon the start of their one year term, she read aloud from previously published poetry collections and introduced new work. Ron Charles from the Washington Post reports “[a]mong her most powerful new pieces were ‘found poems’ constructed from archival letters that African American veterans sent to President Lincoln asking for pensions they were owed.” Smith is the first poet laureate appointed by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Stay tuned for her upcoming efforts to engage rural communities in poetry discussions.
In an effort to adjust more comfortably to the modern age, the Merriam-Webster company is revamping its iconic dictionary, the first to focus mainly on American English. At Slate, Stefan Fatsis considers the changes, which raise the question of what a modern dictionary should look like. Related: our own Bill Morris on the American Heritage Dictionary.
Here’s a fact that’s either very surprising or not surprising at all: Samuel Beckett didn’t want his letters to see the light of day. He once wrote to Barney Rosset that he didn’t care for “the ventilation of private documents.” Despite this disinclination, his third volume of letters comes out this week, and it includes, as detailed by John Banville in a review for The Irish Times, a letter in which Beckett asks that none of his plays be produced in Ireland. Pair with: our own Matt Seidel on Beckett’s “Echo’s Bones.”
Beer bongs are never a good idea. Besides the killer hangover you’ll inevitably wake up with the next morning, you might also steal literary art. When Mitchel Potter was a frat boy in 1987, he stole a bronze bust of Robert Frost from Wichita State University and hid it in his basement for 25 years until someone tipped off the police. Ironically, Potter didn’t even know who Frost was, but the prosecutor read “The Road Not Taken” at his trial.
Slate corrects an oversight to Sarah Palin’s otherwise impeccably edited memoir: no index. Theirs runs from “Alaska, autumn bouquet of” (page 1) to “‘you betcha’ – revelation of as not actually Alaska’s state motto” (page 309), and includes such helpful detours as “exclamation point, usage of” (pages 4, 26, 120, 121, 122, 138, 150…) You almost – almost – don’t have to read the book.