Olivia Laing has written an entire book about male writers and their relationships with alcohol, The Trip to Echo Spring, but in a piece for The Guardian she returns to the subject of writers and drink in order to respond to the question, what about women writers? Were any of them alcoholics? “Yes,” she writes, “of course.” She goes on to discuss the lives and work of Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, Elizabeth Bishop and Patricia Highsmith, their reasons for drinking and their experiences in a society much more willing to accept the struggles of men than of women. For more from Laing, be sure to check out her Year in Reading for 2013.
This is an interview in which five-year-old Desmond and eight-year-old Everett ask some hard-hitting questions of M. Quint regarding her new book The Defiant, and in which Jonathan Lethem makes a brief cameo to helpfully facilitate the discussion–do you need any more reason to read this piece? Here’s a quick hit from C. Max Magee, creator of The Millions, on giving the classics to kids.
“I cannot help feeling, on being invited to contextualize my own fiction, that the least qualified person possible has been asked. It is more still: hesitance, dread, that as a blind man in a failing aircraft I have been offered the yoke. I imagine it is the same for other writers, for the very fact that you write a story, and not a critical essay, suggests that near everything you hope to say lies outside the bounds of explicit statement.” Despite all that, here’s an essay by Greg Jackson at Granta in which he attempts to contextualize his own fiction.
“I have come to realize how much I have, throughout my life, bought into the narrative of this alluring myth of personal responsibility and excellence. I realize how much I believe that all good things will come if I—if we—just work hard enough.” Year in Reading alum Roxane Gay writes for VQR Online about “The Price of Black Ambition.” Pair with our review of An Untamed State.
As literary genres go, bathroom graffiti ranks somewhere between obscenities carved into desks and poorly spelled comments in terms of respectability. Yet it’s still a form that could reveal interesting things, which is why a group of researchers took a series of fact-finding trips to public stalls across America. Their takeaway? “The mere fact of being in a public bathroom could be skewing how people choose to present themselves when they uncap that Sharpie.” Related: Buzz Poole on The History of American Graffiti.
Anne Enright, who won the Man Booker for her 2007 novel, The Gathering, has a new book out, The Green Road. Like its predecessor, the novel tracks a large Irish family, the Madigans, in a plotline that spans three decades. In the Times, David Leavitt reviews the book.