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.
For those of us on the east coast, this reimagining of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as The Road (Has Not Been Plowed In Thirty-Two Hours) should really hit home this morning. Bonus: The Road also made our own “Best of The Millennium” list.
This morning, the longlist for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award came out, and the nominees include some familiar names. Year in Reading alumnus Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (which won this year’s Pulitzer, whom you can learn more about in this essay by our own Michael Bourne) is on there, as is Year in Reading alumnus Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen, Year in Reading alumna Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State (reviewed here by Aboubacar Ndiaye), and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (winner of this year’s Booker Prize).
In the world of selling books, it’s not all about the sentences. At Ploughshares, agent Eric Nelson argues: A fresh plot matters and unusual characters do, too. “The most interesting books have characters who do the opposite of what we’d do… Imagine Hamlet, if Hamlet took decisive action. Horror movies wouldn’t exist at all without the idiot who always suggests they split up.”
“Between 1990 and 2014, visits to public libraries grew by a whopping 181%. For context, the population of the United States increased by 28% during that period.” Why the library boom? (via The Digital Reader) See also this paean by Daniel Penev in our own pages,“The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!”
Having kicked off his career with a book of poetry, it’s not surprising that Ben Lerner is interested in the late Johns Hopkins professor Allen Grossman, who theorized that people dislike poetry because poems are — by definition — failures. In a piece for the LRB, he runs through the implications of Grossman’s theory, touching on poets as disparate as Shakespeare and William McGonagall. Pair with Kate Angus on why Americans don’t buy poetry books.