For the most part, your average writer’s retreat is a pretty cushy place. Its amenities are designed to let its guests turn their energies to the difficulties of artistic work. At The Paris Review Daily, Rex Weiner writes a dispatch from a different sort of retreat — a haunted house for writers in Mexico. To read about a more traditional experience, check out our own Michael Bourne on his time at Bread Loaf.
My favorite part of my apartment is my wall-length bookshelf. When I look at it, I think of all the time I spent reading and accumulating its contents. I feel I’ve earned it, which is why I’m slightly insulted by Juniper Books’ $3,000-$100,000 “collection-development service,” a program designed for “people who want a library but haven't had the time or inclination to amass a collection of books.”
Why would anyone write a book anonymously? Maria Bustillos ponders anonymity at The New Yorker. "Anonymous is more than a pseudonym. It is a stark declaration of intent: a wall explicitly thrown up, not only between writer and reader, but between the writer’s work and his life."
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, "Last Letter," was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea -- as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers -- has little to no basis in reality?
In a piece reminiscent of Talk of the Nation's "You Can't Possibly Read It All, So Stop Trying" episode, A D Jameson tracks every film he's watched over a fifteen year span, and then discusses the data for HTMLGiant. Choice line (which could easily apply to literature, too): "The more you watch from the present day, the more garbage you’re bound to see—but your conclusions will be your own. Conversely, the further back you go, the more you’ll be guided by the opinions of others. (If nothing else, what’s available will be largely determined by what’s remained popular.)"