“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
One of the more common questions that comes up in The Nervous Breakdown’s self-interviews is what the subjects consider to be the hardest part of the writing life. The most recent edition sees Jac Jemc, whose latest came out last week, admit that time is what foils her: “Everything takes longer than I think it will, more drafts than I think it will.” This might be a good time to look back on some earlier examples of the form.
Nobody needs reminding that Yeats was a major poet, but it can be easy to forget, a hundred years of his major work, just why his poetry has endured. In The Irish Times, Denis O’Donoghue makes a forceful case for Yeats’s relevance, arguing that “Yeats solved, or came closer than any other modern poet in English to solving, the problem that defeated so many of his contemporaries: how to reconcile the claims of common speech, morally responsible, with the insisted-on autonomy of the poem.”