A while back, I wrote about Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, which may be the first novel in history written entirely in the form of recommendation letters. Now, at The Rumpus, Anjali Enteti sits down with Schumacher, who talks about writing by hand, the adjunct crisis, and why it’s okay that so many people are getting MFAs. You could also read our own Nick Ripatrazone on why MFA grads should teach high school.
“Literature can use secrecy as a device to ensnare readers, to pull the wool over their eyes or to reveal to them things that the characters can’t see. Whether large – businessman by day, serial killer by night; or small – where a character silently yearns for an ex-lover.” Eli Goldstone compiles a list for The Guardian of 10 novels whose characters are concealing big secrets, including a few lesser-knowns like Shirley Jackson‘s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani.
In a head-scratching piece of writing for the New Statesman, Dave Eggers (whose novel The Circle just cracked our Top Ten) reflects on a cross-country drive he took from Jeddah to Riyadh. The journey, and in particular a comment made by his chauffeur, caused Eggers to ponder the significance of his nationality, his ability to perceive danger, and the intentions of others. The short of it: Some people from other countries are nice. Who knew?
Ohio poet Stanley Gebhardt accused Violent J, a member of Insane Clown Posse, of stealing his poem, “But You Didn’t,” nine years ago and attempting to pass it off as his own. The poem was originally published in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Bonus: Kent Russell’s dispatch from “The Gathering of the Juggalos.”
Margaret Wise Brown was nothing if not an interesting figure. The Goodnight Moon author, whose life is the subject of a new biography, loved hunting, partying and staging stunts, among them founding a club that claimed they could reschedule Christmas. She kept homes in Greenwich Village and a tiny island off Maine. At Slate, Laura Miller reads the new book by Amy Gary. You could also read our own Jacob Lambert’s critical review of kid’s picture books.
New this week is Jonathan Evison’s West of Here, Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story about the death of her husband (this was the source of her recent, quite moving essay in the New Yorker), and the expanded rerelease of Alexander Theroux’s The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Also new on shelves from NYRB Classics is Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, with an introduction by Phillip Lopate, who discussed Fontane in our Year in Reading in December.
Perhaps inspired by the news, first reported a few years ago, that mad scientists in the Indian army plan to weaponize superhot chilis, Lauren Collins ventures bravely into the world of extreme heat. As a warning to readers who fancy themselves tough, she quotes a doctor who makes clear that these peppers aren’t just hot — they’re lethal.