Just because Beowulf‘s influence on Tolkien isn’t news doesn’t mean the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s translation of the epic poem this week isn’t exciting. But while Tolkien’s name alone may be enough for the serious fan, Ethan Gilsdorf at the New York Times has given general readers an introduction to the history of the new translation complete with some insight into Tolkien’s love of the epic poem.
We all probably had the humiliating experience of reciting a poem in high school. Yet at Salon, Nina Kang believes that memorizing poetry is a lost art. She blames the loss of the discipline on our tendency to skim and new poetry’s seeming aversion to memorization. “Writers actively fight against the appearance of artifice, and often instead strive for an informal, offhand tone, with that hint of clumsiness that lends a certain authenticity to the voice. It turns out this is a quality that makes the reciter’s job that much more difficulty.” Here’s our take on the lost art of recitation.
Every so often, a piece comes along that rends the fragile mind, employing a devil’s portion of mundane details to lay bare the inescapable futility of all human endeavor. This is the only rational way to describe this piece at The Awl, which takes the form of a conversation between Karl Ove Knausgaard and True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto.
Boston has announced the country’s first “Literary Culture District,” marked by memorials to Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. It also includes some arguably less interesting sites – the buildings that used to house The Atlantic Monthly and Little, Brown and Company, for example. Caroline O’Donovan writes critically about the new district for The Baffler and concludes that “we’ve allowed glib cultural ideals to occlude economic realities, and tourism tax dollars to triumph over a candid conversation about the origins of art and the sustainability of its production.”
Nominees for The Bookseller Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year have been announced. My favorite, which to me is not odd at all actually, is Bacon: A Love Story. Scatology abounds in this list, including: Peek-a-poo:What’s in Your Diaper, and The Origin of Faeces.