“Reading fiction is one of my true loves, but essays help me to understand things about the world, the writer, and if they’re really great, myself.” Electric Literature‘s Jason Diamond argues 2014 was “The Year of the Essay,” and when we think over the collections published this year – The Empathy Exams, The Unspeakable and Loitering, among others – it’s hard to disagree.
We've been following the YA debate quite attentively - I wrote about it just last week - but Sarah Burnes's addition to the conversation, a blog post for The Paris Review, is one of the most eloquent I've read. In defense of reading YA fiction as a "grown-up" she writes, "The binary between children’s and adult fiction is a false one, based on a limited conception of the self. I have not ceased to be the person I was when I was an adolescent; in fact, to think so seems to me like a kind of dissociation from a crucial aspect of one’s self. And the critic should be concerned with what is good and what is bad, what is art and what is not—not with what’s 'appropriate.'"
New this week is Jonathan Evison's West of Here, Joyce Carol Oates' memoir A Widow's Story about the death of her husband (this was the source of her recent, quite moving essay in the New Yorker), and the expanded rerelease of Alexander Theroux's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Also new on shelves from NYRB Classics is Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, with an introduction by Phillip Lopate, who discussed Fontane in our Year in Reading in December.
Sometime Ph.D candidate, sometime actor, and ubiquitous lit blog all-star James Franco (henceforth known as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named") has begun filming an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Child of God in West Virginia, and I'm reminded of that line from W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming" -- "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity."