The CIA might just be America’s most literary government agency, no? Not only did they (maybe) help fund the early days of The Paris Review but, according to Eric Bennett, the group also funded the nation’s most prestigious and storied creative writing program. Over on Iowa Public Radio, you can hear some details.
I’d heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: “The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally–he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now–but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times (‘arrogant,’ ‘high-handed,’ ‘ethically compromised’) with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.”
Attention literature-lovers and burrito-consumers: Chipotle has announced the second batch of writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, and Neil Gaiman, for its Cultivating Thought series, which places short pieces of writing on soda cups and paper bags (we covered the first series here).
“I think that every novelist of the kind of novels that I write has in them maybe one really good book, but the trouble with so many novelists is that they keep on writing novels even when they run out of ideas.” Forrest Gump author Winston Groom on why it’s taken him 20 years to write his new novel. Pair with our recent three-way interview with writers Emily Barton, Alexander Chee, and Whitney Terrell, all of whom needed a decade for their most recent books.
Elissa Schappell thinks writers need to stop whining. “Writers seem to think that by virtue of intellect or sensitivity that we suffer more than others, that the work we do is more necessary than other work. This idea is not only ridiculous, it’s shameful,” she wrote after 2paragraphs asked her “What Do You Like Least About Being A Writer?” Pair with: our interview with her earlier this year.