How was Charlotte Brontë at 8? According to her school reports, she “‘[wrote] indifferently’ and ‘[knew] nothing of grammar, geography, history, or accomplishments”. Of course, she went on to write Jane Eyre, and as The Guardian points out, many a famous writer received middling reports in school, so maybe there’s hope for other “indifferent’ writers.
Year in Reading alumnus Alexander Chee writes about the impulse to write fiction, his first novel, and unpublished manuscripts in an essay for the Center For Fiction’s Why Fiction Matters series. “The first story I ever invented for public consumption was in a book report back in grade school. I had made a vow to read every book in my grade school library, and at some point, as I made my way through them, I remember very clearly understanding that there was simply no way my teacher would know about every book ever published—this was before the Internet—and so I decided I would make one up and see if she noticed.” Pair with this Millions piece, featuring six writers looking back on their first novels.
Mick Jagger couldn’t get no satisfaction in Clearwater, Florida in 1965. If John Jeremiah Sullivan is to be believed, it was a young woman by the name of Ginny French who inspired Jagger to write the song while lounging poolside the morning after a big performance. If music marginalia is your thing, be sure to check out The Millions’ own Torch Ballads and Jukebox Music column.
“Without any clear and agreed upon sense for what to be aiming at in a life, people may experience the paralyzing type of indecision depicted by T.S. Eliot in his famously vacillating character Prufrock; or they may feel, like the characters in a Samuel Beckett play, as though they are continuously waiting for something to become clear… or they may feel the kind of “stomach level sadness” that David Foster Wallace described…” Sean D. Kelly navigates past nihilism for the New York Times.
“It’s the marriage of one kind of darkness to another… the black storm cloud of Neel’s pen is well suited to Dostoyevsky’s questions of God, reason, and doubt.” On Alice Neel‘s illustrations for The Brothers Karamazov, from The Paris Review. Pair with our own Kevin Hartnett’s much lighter take on the novel, “Reading The Brothers Karamazov: Even a Toddler Knows a Funny Name When He Hears One.”
A lot has already been said about Nicolas Winding Refn’s newest and arguably most provocative film, Neon Demon. At The Rumpus, Jeffery Edalatpour examines beauty and its extremes, and also asks a couple questions of the director, himself: “Refn has revised the mythology of Aphrodite; she dons as much armor as Athena, enjoying nothing but the hunt. When I asked the director if he could cite any visual influences, his flat affect implied disdain for my simplistic question: ‘I just photograph what I find interesting. I believe that women are more powerful and more interesting than men. It’s just very much what I like to fantasize about.’ Fair enough.”
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”