Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso writes about motherhood, writing, and the disintegration of the self in a moving essay for Harper’s. As she puts it, "I want to read books that were written in desperation, by people who are disturbed and overtaxed, who balance on the extreme edge of experience. I want to read books by people who are acutely aware that death is coming and that abiding love is our last resort." Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.
Listen to Pnin author Vladimir Nabokov read “An Evening of Russian Poetry” in the style—nay, as “an impersonation, in iambic pentameter, with fancy rhymes”—of that book’s titular professor.
Frank Stanford isn’t the most well-known American poet, but he is one of the most revered, at least according to his contemporaries. At The Rumpus, David Biespeil writes about a new collection of the poet’s work, remarking that “no American poet I have ever met regardless of disposition or poetics has disliked Frank Stanford’s poems.”