From The Things They Carried to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, veteran literary fiction has always been popular, yet women are almost nowhere to be found in war literature. At The New York Times, Cara Hoffman argues that leaving women out of combat literature makes returning from war even more isolating. “They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home.”
“There is one rule [to writing biography] that all who try their hand at it come to know: until the protagonist reveals his or her character—his or her inner self—what the biographer produces is less a life than a report, an autopsy rather than the record of a séance.” David Levering Lewis writes for The American Scholar about biography and writing “the lives of African-American figures, and [finding] in them the story of our times.”
“Writers teach, not writing per se, but how to engage in writing as a process and a means of perception. The actual work of writing is seldom sublime. It’s a struggle that grows more difficult if we avoid it. Writing is often excruciatingly slow and repetitive. Time, in slipping and sliding, makes itself felt and immediate. Words are the way in, but nothing is guaranteed. What writers or readers can do with language, or understand inside it, depends on what they know—on refining their sensibilities, on writing, revising, waiting, reading, writing, as though living in language were life and death.” Year in Reading alumna Jayne Anne Phillips writes for the Literary Hub about the importance of writing programs. For more on the debate, check out Hannah Gersen’s Millions essay.
Lorrie Moore once said in an interview that what’s good for writing is bad for life. In this vein, we might assume that coffee, which is bad for your health but good for your writing, neatly supports her conjecture. But what if it turns out that coffee is a detriment to creativity? Maria Konnikova investigates research that suggests this might be the case.
If you haven’t had a chance to finish perusing the New York Times Style Magazine’s ‘The Greats’ issue make sure you at least find the time to read Dave Eggers profile of Year in Reading alum Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is on one of their seven covers and if you’ve ever wanted to know about her family and what kind of reading she wants to do more of, this is the interview for you. “‘That boy,” she said, and sighed. She was still thinking about Edwyn. ‘There was something so clean and pure and true about his writing, don’t you think? Increasingly I find that that’s the kind of thing I want to read.'”
Why is Hamlet so maddeningly indecisive? It’s a question as well-trod as any in literature, yet few people question that dithering is what defines the Prince of Denmark. In The Irish Times, Brian Dillon looks at another way of thinking about the character, one laid out in a recent book, that centers on the idea that Hamlet is crippled by “the burden of knowledge itself.”