Is “the two-person collaboration… the essential creative act”? Joshua Wolf Shenk thinks so, and he’s written a book defending his position, aptly titled The Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney are his primary examples and the root of his argument, famous author duos are also referenced – C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, for one. Shenk even “works to transform even famously lonely figures — Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King Jr. — into one side of a duet.” Consider us skeptical but intrigued.
After thirty years, Larry Kramer has finished his novel The American People, which he prefers to consider a new form of nonfiction. In the novel, a narrator based largely on Kramer writes a historical expose, also titled The American People, in which numerous American icons are described as having been gay. As Kramer says, he wrote the book in part out of a feeling that gay people are excluded from history books.
We like big books and we cannot lie. But are books just continuing to get longer and longer? A new survey of bestsellers has concluded that the average book is now 25% bigger than its counterpart fifteen years ago. The Guardian investigates. Mark O’Connell at The Millions has his own theory about long books.
Out this week: Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth; Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein; Lucky You by Erika Carter; An Arrangement of Skin by Anna Journey; The River of Kings by Taylor Brown; and More Alive and Less Lonely by Jonathan Lethem. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“Good political poems, outlive the events that shape them… they lead strange lives.” One such poem, written after a pogrom 100 years ago, has since been translated by Palestinian resistance leaders, and more recently claimed as “Israeli” by PM Netanyahu. Some of the most notable works of the genre have been collected by Poetry. New projects in political poetry I’m excited about: online journal Matter Monthly, and Rattle’s Sunday column for a political poem addressing events of that week.
Last week, I directed you to Catie Disabato’s Thick Skin interview at 0s&1s. This week, Year in Reading alum Laura van den Berg joins them for the latest installment of the series, in which authors address their critics. We also recently interviewed van den Berg following the release of her first novel, Find Me.