Olivia Laing has written an entire book about male writers and their relationships with alcohol, The Trip to Echo Spring, but in a piece for The Guardian she returns to the subject of writers and drink in order to respond to the question, what about women writers? Were any of them alcoholics? “Yes,” she writes, “of course.” She goes on to discuss the lives and work of Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, Elizabeth Bishop and Patricia Highsmith, their reasons for drinking and their experiences in a society much more willing to accept the struggles of men than of women. For more from Laing, be sure to check out her Year in Reading for 2013.
In Case You Missed It: This email exchange between playwright Sarah Ruhl and the late Max Ritvo, whose Four Reincarnations is out next week: “I think my mind is a set of lapis lazuli steps falling apart, and all I want is to be told ‘it’s alright, we rebuild it every day’ But what is the it? What is it? And if I was vaporized by a ray gun but was then replaced instantly by an identical person with an identical filigree of nerves shot through with identical sparks cased in an identical skull—would it still be me? I don’t think so. I don’t know if even a perfect Reincarnation would be a Reincarnation to me, in my heart. I’m starting to feel like Theseus and I just want my fucking ship out of the dry-dock and back on the water.”
At Newsweek, Jeremy McCarter reviews The Cross of Redemption, a new anthology of James Baldwin’s previously uncollected essays and public letters: “At a time when serious people claim we live in a ‘post-racial’ society, the reappearance of Baldwin’s writing—insistent, accusatory, outraged—feels like a terrible family secret coming to light in an Ibsen play, or Banquo’s ghost showing up to spoil the party.”
“The best thing I ever do for my writing is to take a walk alone in the woods behind our house. Nothing else gets my writing juices flowing so well. And yes, I think that I absolutely need more quiet in our current fractured world.” For Poets & Writers, novelist Leesa Cross-Smith interviewed fellow writer Silas House about quiet books and the importance of nature in the writing process. Pair with: our own Emily St. John Mandel on the pleasures of quiet books.