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.
Head over to The Literary Hub and take a look at this excerpt from Svetlana Alexievich’s newest book, Second-Hand Time, which has been called a “history of emotions” chronicling the demise of Soviet communism. While you’re at it, take a look at this Millions profile/interview with Alexievich from earlier this summer.
New this week: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy; The Infernal by Mark Doten; The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw; All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors; Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman; Making Nice by Matt Sumell; After Birth by Elisa Albert; Blue Stars by Emily Ray Tedrowe; The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan; The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi; and Find Me by Laura van den Berg. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2015 Book Preview.
Want your writing to have punch? Want your readers to believe you? “The five-word sentence as the gospel truth…Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence,” Roy Peter Clark writes in The New York Times. Sorry that every sentence in this post is more than five words.
The luck of the Irish is undoubtedly with Poetry Magazine this month in conjunction with the publication of their special Irish issue. In it, twenty-five Irish poets from Caitriona O’Reilly to Declan Ryan showcase some of the best of what the Emerald Isle has to offer; here is Patrick Cotter introducing the book for The Irish Times.
One Goodreads vigilante has created a master list of authors notorious for responding immaturely or meanly to negative reviews of their work. Elsewhere, iDreamBooks, a new Rotten Tomatoes-type service, was launched. The site aggregates critics’ book reviews and shows you what to read next.
The Table 4 Writers Foundation, which was established in the honor of Elaine Kaufman, will award $2,000 grants for never-before-published works of fiction and non-fiction. The deadline for submissions is October 15. (h/t Bill Morris, who has written about the foundation and grant program before.)
Practically everyone with a pulse loves Patti Smith. Celebrate Sunday by listening to her speak about Virginia Woolf’s cane, Charles Dickens’s pen, and a few other literary talismans. Here’s a handy Spotify playlist which gathers every song from Smith’s award-winning memoir Just Kids.