“After [WWII], the other Finnish artists formed themselves into political groups but Tove wasn’t a joiner; besides, the only political activity she enjoyed was tyrant-baiting. She decided to emigrate to the island kingdom of Tonga but the governor wrote back saying there was a housing shortage and she wouldn’t be welcome. So she created her own Tonga: Moominland.” A new biography looks at the “conflicted life” and creative work of Tove Jansson, whose name has appeared several times here at The Millions.
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
Award-winning poet Alice Oswald has pulled out of prestigious poetry award the TS Eliot prize in protest over its sponsorship by an investment company. Oswald’s words: “I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions.”
“Guilt and a feeling of never being satisfied with what you’ve done. And a sense that you are inadequate and a big phony. All useful for a writer. I’m always being edited by my inner nun.” An interview with the inimitable George Saunders, author of Tenth of December, on his approach to humor. Pair with: our own reviews of his stories.
Christopher Higgs was teaching Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, and one of his students was inspired to make a mixtape featuring “the twisted, crusty, and often sublime characters found within the novel.” (The book, by the way, was one of my selections for Year in Reading last year.)