“How could we possibly trust any creature that comes into the world wearing such a caul of ambiguity? That’s “essayists.” Four hundred and four years later, they continue to flourish.” John Jeremiah Sullivan offers a loose history of the essay, essayists, and all their many contradictions in a piece for The New Yorker.
“Like reading, love works in roughly the same way every time, but the details of any given case are irreducibly particular, and it’s in the details that everything happens.” Lidija Haas on Elif Batuman’s debut novel, The Idiot. (You could also read our review by Virginia Marshall.)
Charles Bock (Beautiful Children), in a recent interview, sounding perturbed: “Where are you right now? I’m in a writer’s room in Manhattan. There’s all these other people with their fucking computers doing their stupid little bullshit. It feels pointless. You wanna feel like it matters. It’s hard to do that when you’re in a room like this. At least it’s quiet.”
“Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising ‘to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans.” The New York Times‘ Michiko Kakutani writes a review of Volker Ullrich‘s new Hitler biography, Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, so timely it could easily be an op-ed. Just read it. And when you’re done, read this too.
Superagent Andrew (“The Jackal”) Wylie disses the e-book and modern publishing’s “wild weekend in Las Vegas approach” to book acquisition in the Wall Street Journal Magazine. But the best part is an online slide show depicting Wylie’s journey from a wild-eyed hippie cabbie in 1971 to the uberwasp wheeler-dealer that he is today.
“A quick scan of the literature shows that the writerly gaze has been most often turned on male artists and their creative processes and passions.” Claire V Mullins aims to redirect this gaze with a list for Electric Literature of 11 novels about female artists, including Zadie Smith‘s latest, Swing Time, which we reviewed last year. Related: Elizabeth Silver on the rise of strong female characters and the death of the literary ingénue.
“When they’re not at their day jobs, a great many of the island’s 330,000 inhabitants dabble in verse.” The New York Times attempts to understand why Iceland is chock-a-block with poets. A few years back we reviewed one of its better known practitioners (and Björk lyricist) Sjón.