Recently, we featured five writers’ reminisces about the novels they ultimately shelved. Here a sixth, Elmo Keep, explains what led her to throw away her first novel, quite outside considerations of craft:”I could not resolve the conflict of a story that was not mine.”
Wes Anderson really likes trains, and not just any trains — the director of The Grand Budapest Hotel is a big fan of riding on Amtrak. “It’s one thing to be stuck together for the long haul to New Zealand in the upper deck of a 747 for 16 hours,” he told a writer for the company’ s blog, “but it’s an altogether different matter to hit the dining car three meals a day for two and a half days running onboard the Southwest Chief.” This may be a good time to read our own Nick Ripatrazone’s essay on writers and trains.
Recommended Reading: From The New Yorker, it’s Tessa Hadley on fiction as anthropology: “When I’m writing a story, its world is thin, unsatisfactory, untrue, until I start to find my way to those details, those ‘small cultural signifiers.’ As these accumulate on the page, the life in the piece thickens, the details breed, and the story begins to stir.”
When you’re trying to keep up with the best new writers out there, it’s easy to forget the debt we owe to the classics. So let’s go back to the beginning: Why Homer Matters, a new book by Adam Nicholson on the father of all poets, explores the question of who Homer was, and whether or not he was even one person. You could also read Frank Kovarik on the parallels between The Odyssey and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
“Steinem welcomed them all—the rich, the celebrities, the climbers for the cause. She was a radical but, consciously, never an outsider. She enjoyed the world where she plied her trade as an entrepreneur of social change, and, with her mouth spray at hand, she had long since mastered the subterfuges of talking truth to power. You could call it consciousness-raising—on a wider canvas.” The New Yorker profiles Gloria Steinem in anticipation of her latest release, My Life on the Road.
I didn’t expect to find a Chinese poem more ornate than Su Hui’s palindromic, pre-oulipan “Xuanji Tu,” but apparently I underestimated myself. Here’s “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den,” a 92-character poem by Yuen Ren Chao which relies on the tonal variations of a single sound (shi) to tell the story of a “lion addict” with a taste for big cats. For a really crazy experience, I recommend listening to the poem being read aloud.