“The myth of the full-time writer is a perniciously sticky one—and it doesn’t help that once in a blue moon a J.K. Rowling does come along, thereby entrenching the cultural delusion that being a full-time writer is a thing that could realistically happen. But the truth is that being a full-time writer is basically just the literary equivalent of a career in the NBA.” Liz Entman Harper talks with seven writers about the struggle to balance writing with a day job, and those interviews pair well with our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s look at “Working the Double Shift.”
Guernica's latest issue is devoted to the American South. As the issue's introduction states, "The American South is at once a geographical distinction and a bright spot in the imagination, where burden vies with birthright, and where ignorance and renaissance exist side by side." The issue features a Kiese Laymon essay on inequality and language, Ed Winstead on the Southern accent in writing, an interview with Jesmyn Ward, fiction, and more.
"Flooded with data as we are, each day brings even more innovations and technologies to help us mine, sort, and generate even more information. Asking about the future of libraries is another way of asking where this big, hot mess of information is taking us." Justin Wadland reviews three books on libraries and attempts to predict the future of these institutions in a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Meanwhile, Florida Polytechnic University has just opened and its library has no books at all.
You might think that recording an audiobook would be an easy task for Ice-T. Not so, or at least not always: the rapper and Law & Order star says an upcoming book in the Dungeons and Dragons universe tripped him up with its heavy use of fantasy slang. (h/t The Paris Review)
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.
"But where Smiley condescended, others were enthralled. Salmon Rushdie waxed lyrical, John Updike found it 'stunning,' Susan Sontag hosted him at dinner parties. Gabriel Garcia Marquez dubbed him, simply, 'the Master' - high praise from the founder of magical realism, but Kapuściński seemed to one-up Garcia Marquez by injecting magic into real politics, and elucidating thereby the human tension and bewilderment connected to power that traditional journalism left hidden." Ryszard Kapuściński: novelist? Journalist? Or something else entirely?
Though traditionally a cultural staple, Irish poetry's popularity has been on the decline for some time now. The best way to reignite public interest? A contest, of course, and Seamus Heaney just won. His sonnet "When all the others were away at Mass" was voted "Ireland’s best-loved poem written over the past 100 years."
To commemorate the book's 75th anniversary, WNYC and WQXR Radio will present a live radio play of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. New Yorkers will be able to catch the broadcast on February 29th and March 1st, and then the rest of the nation can hear it in September.