“War veterans experience something called hypervigilance, a mental state of continual alertness for danger. I have a minor version of this, a writer’s version. For me, danger lies in the sound of a footstep, a spoken word. Anyone could destroy the fragile construction I have to make each day.” Roxana Robinson writes for VQR about the writer’s need for solitude. For more from Robinson, be sure to check out her essay for The Millions on Edith Wharton.
From the Paris Review: Daniel Torday on lost family stories, Pliny the Elder, and the origins of glass.
"The blackly comic energy of Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts—its caustic ebullience, the strange buoyancy of its suffering—is a remarkably American achievement, a kind of death-dance capered on the corpse of a vividly rendered early 1930s Manhattan." On Miss Lonelyhearts, the darkest American masterpiece.
It's good to see James Wood covering Richard Price in The New Yorker; and even better to hear Price himself on Fresh Air.And also from The New Yorker, may we recommend Dan Chiasson's wonderful essay on Frank O'Hara?Luc Sante's blog pretty much has to be good.Derek, the guy who got both Max and Garth started blogging in the first place, is taking part in a big group blog at the Washington Post covering the Nationals baseball team and its new stadium.With features like this reconsideration of The Gnostic Gospels, the New York Sun is quietly building what may be the country's best books section."Growing Up Radical: An Interview with Peter Carey" (via scott)"On Magic Feelism" - n+1 considers Kevin Brockmeier's The View from the Seventh LayerBoris Kachka profiles Jhumpa Lahiri in New YorkSurreal: "Garfield" minus Garfield. Alternatively, "Garfield" without Garfield's thought bubbles.Nobody knows if the Kindle is a hit, AP says, but something is happening.A book graveyard in Russia.Languagehat's specialty: a thoroughly edifying investigation of a phrase pulled out of thin air.American Book Review has developed their own lists of 100 Best Last Lines from Novels (PDF) and 100 Best First Lines from NovelsThe Boston Globe argues that Bringing Down the House, the basis for the new movie 21, is not a work of nonfiction.
"Despite its brevity, the diary is an illuminating document that offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist as a young woman." The never-before-seen diary of Flannery O’Connor has been published in Image, an arts and faith quarterly, and reveals the shadow of the writer she would become. See also: our own Nick Ripatrazone on teaching O'Connor.
In a TED Talk, Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how Google Labs' Ngram Viewer works. You can learn "surprising things" from 500 billion words, a string of characters which put together "would stretch from here to the Moon and back ten times over."
In 2011 I wrote about a group of Chilean Communists who wished to exhume Pablo Neruda’s body. They alleged that Neruda was murdered. Now, two years later, a judge has ordered the corpse to be exhumed and autopsied in order to set the record straight.
I’ve written before about the excellently titled series Novelists in Restaurants Eating Food. It lets some of our foremost literary minds reflect on places like Fallon and Byrne and Buffalo Wild Wings. Now, Millions contributor Laura van den Berg writes about Cafe Azteca in Lawrence, MA, where they make shrimp fajitas that inspire mouth-watering daydreams. Sample quote: “Love of food can be love’s most sincere form—especially when avocados are involved.”
Recommended recommendations: "Eight Excellent Literary Podcasts for Your Morning Commute."