Moby-Dick is a quintessential Great American Novel, perhaps even the greatest, but it might not be pure fiction. That’s what George Dobbs argues in a piece on “The Real Life Inspirations Behind Moby-Dick” for The Airship. Invention or not, at least we can be thankful no cannibalism sneaked its way onto the Pequod…
Graywolf Press’s Poem of the Week is “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” by David Bowie-fan Tracy K. Smith. She writes, “Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep / Or charging through his veins.” Pair with Sophia Nguyen’s Millions review of Smith’s new memoir, Ordinary Light.
Tasteless and horrifying--nay, even a sign of the apocalypse--or rather excellent advice for college-bound young ladies? You decide: Vice Magazine's "A Beginner's Guide to Drugs For Girls." (A taste: "Here are some pointers for the beginners out there so you can get high without becoming that girl slumped in the corner of the night bus with vomit all over your shoes and lockjaw so bad your teeth have all snapped in half.")
London is the most popular literary city. Graphic designer Edgard Barbosa made an infographic that visualizes the number of English-language books written about 10 international cities from 1800 to 2000. The locales include Rome, New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, Beijing, Chicago, Cairo, and Mumbai.
"Here is the trouble with looking for ourselves in the writers whose works we admire, at least if we are proposing to be their biographers. For if we are in search of ourselves, or in this case our own troubled teenaged selves roaming New York, then we are apt to downplay those parts of the life that don’t correspond with that need for recognition." Anne Boyd Rioux writes about biography and the distance, good or bad, between subject and biographer for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Over at the Story Prize blog, Year in Reading alumnus Colum McCann shares a letter of advice to writers starting their career. As he puts it, “A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last... [it] reveal[s] a truth that isn't yet there.”