Emily Dickinson wrote her poetry in a house in Amherst. Mark Twain wrote many of his best works on his estate in Connecticut. And Geoffrey Chaucer, it turns out, wrote in a cramped bachelor pad, nestled in the east side of the wall surrounding London. In The Spectator, a reading of Paul Strohm’s Chaucer’s Tale, which describes a pivotal year in the poet’s life.
Max’s verdict in the opening round of The Morning News Tournament of Books has been posted. Which book did he pick, Gate at the Stairs or The Book of Night Women? Hop over to TMN to find out. And don’t miss the match commentary, which has some great additional discussion of both books.
Year in Reading alumnus Thomas Mallon’s foreword to the new edition of John O’Hara’s 1940 novel Pal Joey is available in The Paris Review Daily. Mallon predicts that “ O’Hara’s moment for a really breakout revival—outdated enough to be exotic—may at last be upon us.”
What do indie rock musicians share in common with experimental writers? A great deal, and not just a distaste for both of those over-used adjectives.
Short on insult fodder? In that case you’ll want to read Colin Burrow’s review of Melissa Mohr’s Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. It includes such notables as: “slapsauce fellows, slabberdegullion druggels, lubbardly lowts … slutch calf-lollies, grouthead gnat-snappers, lob-dotterels, gaping changelings, [and] codshead loobies.” In the end, “swearing is one of the most basic human acts,” he writes.
“Still, it’s difficult to know whether [Shel] Silverstein, who died of a heart attack in 1999, after keeping out of the public eye for more than two decades, meant for us to read the book so conclusively. His biography and body of work suggest a subtler, and, in the end, perhaps an even more troubling, way of looking at it.” Ruth Margalit on The Giving Tree.