In Meg Wolitzer’s new YA novel Belzhar, a group of teenagers packed off to an idyllic boarding school learn that they have the ability to undo their most serious traumas. Their discovery is sparked by a writing assignment in a class on Sylvia Plath. At Slate, Jennifer Ray Morell connects Wolitzer’s novel to Plath’s classic The Bell Jar. Related: our own Hannah Gersen’s interview with biographer Elizabeth Winder.
In 1817, the painter Robert Benjamin Haydon invited several guests over for what he called an “immortal dinner.” Why the bombastic name? The guests included Keats and Wordsworth, whom Haydon wished to introduce to each other. In the WaPo, Michael Dirda takes a look at The Immortal Evening, a new book about the event by Stanley Plumly.
Tired of reading Mark O’Connell’s articles in silence? Check out his two pieces in The Racket, the first of which features attached audio from the author himself, and the second features an embedded video with Sam Bungey, the publication’s editor. Consider Mark’s reading Exhibit B in the case for Irish Accents Improving Everything, which I brought forth last week.
This independent bookstore in Alabama has a novel concept–selling only signed copies of books. Alabama Booksmith is just one of many independent bookstores looking for new ways to survive in the world. This Millions interview with Janet Geddis, the founder of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga, is both hopeful and inspiring.
“Here is the trouble with looking for ourselves in the writers whose works we admire, at least if we are proposing to be their biographers. For if we are in search of ourselves, or in this case our own troubled teenaged selves roaming New York, then we are apt to downplay those parts of the life that don’t correspond with that need for recognition.” Anne Boyd Rioux writes about biography and the distance, good or bad, between subject and biographer for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
“There is one rule [to writing biography] that all who try their hand at it come to know: until the protagonist reveals his or her character—his or her inner self—what the biographer produces is less a life than a report, an autopsy rather than the record of a séance.” David Levering Lewis writes for The American Scholar about biography and writing “the lives of African-American figures, and [finding] in them the story of our times.”