Sometimes, it’s easier to read or watch something that’s light and airy, as opposed to seeking out art that challenges your perspective. Millions contributor Fiona Maazel generally thinks of herself as a person who instinctively chose nuance over breeziness. But lately, she’s had to ask herself a tough question — is she actually more attracted to the anodyne?
The U.S. Library of Congress has named its newest poet laureate, reports The New York Times. Tracy K. Smith says, “I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go. Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.” Pair with our review of Smith’s memoir Ordinary Light.
“Nathan Englander’s characters have invented ‘the Anne Frank game’ whose major question is ‘who would hide you if there were another Holocaust.’ By making this a game, the characters demonstrate their affective distance from the event, but at the same time Englander illustrates that the Holocaust remains a touchstone for the marijuana-smoking, Orthodox Jews who bring the game to their secular Jewish friends.” On the fictional afterlife of Anne Frank.
In more “Dylan at 70” news, the knowledgeable Ed Ward reviews the compilation How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan for The Oxford American. (Editor’s Note: The omission from this album of Nina Simone‘s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and Ben E. King‘s “Lay Lady Lay” are both unconscionable.)
“She was furious about the way the female college students of the next generation had been programmed to regard getting an MRS. degree as the be-all and end-all of their experience in higher education. She was enraged by the way the psychiatric profession regarded housewives’ unhappiness as a symptom of an out-of-whack libido. She was angry at the way the economy appeared to see her entire sex as simple consumption machines who built national prosperity by buying new appliances for the kitchen and searching madly for the perfect laundry detergent.” Betty Friedan’s second wave classic The Feminine Mystique turns fifty.
At Bookforum, Rebecca Donner talks with former Granta editor John Freeman about his new book of interviews, How to Read a Novelist. Freeman says that he enjoys interviewing writers in their homes because it allows him to observe them more closely: “The writer thinks you’re taking notes about what he’s saying, but you’re really writing, ‘His head looks like a lion’s head.’”