“Writing isn’t entirely mental. You’re a physical being, and sometimes when your writing is broken, it’s your body that needs attention, not your mind.” Rebecca Makkai has some tips for breaking writer’s block and a very cool perspective on writing as a whole person. Pair with our interview with Makkai about her latest novel, The Hundred-Year House.
“And this is a story about what women can do to each other—why women are cruel to each other, why women don’t reach down and help each other.” In conversation for Vanity Fair, Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn talk about female rage, #MeToo, and Sharp Objects, the HBO series based on Flynn’s novel. Pair with: Millions staffers Janet Potter and Edan Lepucki talk about Flynn and her novels.
In an effort to adjust more comfortably to the modern age, the Merriam-Webster company is revamping its iconic dictionary, the first to focus mainly on American English. At Slate, Stefan Fatsis considers the changes, which raise the question of what a modern dictionary should look like. Related: our own Bill Morris on the American Heritage Dictionary.
In a long investigation of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic essay, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” (PDF), Josh Roiland takes readers to church by pointing out exactly what’s so alluring about the piece, which “scholars often point to … as the origin of Gonzo Journalism.”
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)