The essay is more popular than ever. At Salon, talks to Leslie Jamison (author of The Empathy Exams, here’s our review) and Roxane Gay (author of the forthcoming Bad Feminist) about the power of the genre. Gay believes our interest in essays is because of a “cultural preoccupation with the exposure of the self.” They also discuss if we’re in a golden age of women essayists. “Sometimes when men write about private feeling, it’s seen as exploratory or daring, and when women write about private feeling it’s seen as limited or in the vein of a kind of circumscribed emotional writing,” Jamison says.
In 1979, William Gaddis taught a course at Bard College on “The Literature of Failure,” examining works that somehow focused on personal failure or insufficiency. These included, among other books, Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In Bookforum, Casey Michael Henry takes on a related genre: the literature of obsolescence. You could also read James Cappio on meeting Gaddis in person.
Were you aware there’s a new BBC2 show about the lives of the Bloomsbury Group? There is, and it’s called Life in Squares, a reference to a quote that says the group “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.” In The New Statesman, Rachel Cooke sits down with the series. You could also read Alexis Coe on Virginia Woolf and Downton Abbey.
“Officials in charge of an Australian writers festival were so upset with the address by their keynote speaker, the American novelist Lionel Shriver, that they censored her on the festival website and publicly disavowed her remarks.” Dang. (We agree, it was pretty bad – she wore a sombrero for most of her speech.) Writers’ conferences: They’re intense.