Flip through the blurbs on a recently published novel and you’re likely to come across a ton of stock phrases. Gary Shteyngart parodied this repetition — as well as other facets of the blurb-industrial complex — in a bit of improv last year. At The Morning News, Christine Gosnay writes about a poem that gave her a genuinely new reaction: the sense that she was “more than one person.”
Parentheses aren't just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita's "My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three." Pair with: Vulture's "The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature."
At the Book Bench, slides of Roland Barthes’ diaries from 1977 in their original, hand-written form: “His brilliance, which indelibly influenced literary theory, semiotics, social theory, and post-structuralism, can make him seem as distant as he is renowned. Yet the diary entries... reveal Barthes to be extraordinarily sensitive and relatable.” (via The Rumpus)
Penny Perkins interviews Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty author Ramona Ausubel at The Rumpus. “I realized that this book I was writing about money had to be about race and it had to be about class and it had to be about privilege, and which of those things we are able to see and which we are blind to.” Pair with Ausubel’s writing at The Millions.
"Writers are outsiders, and usually not by their own choosing. It's why they're writers. If they didn't feel alienated from human experience, they wouldn't feel so drawn to writing to make sense of their lives. It's not the outsider's facility for language that makes her a writer — many a student body president or homecoming queen can turn a phrase — but her ability to howl at the moon, on the page." Karen Karbo writes for Powell's Books's blog about how much publishing has changed in the last 20-some years, but she also has a lot of great words about why people would want to deal with writing and publishing in the first place. Pair her smart essay with our own Nick Ripatrazone's piece "Practical Art: On Teaching the Business of Creative Writing."
"On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be 'forbid' and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin." On John Cleland's (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
Essay Liu's essay "Seven Days After Father" has been translated by Kevin T. S. Tang for Blunderbuss Magazine and presents a daughter's sincere grief confused by custom. "'The funeral director forbids tears as we approach your coffin, but demands that we weep on our return. This is the movie script we’ve been handed, one we’ll be beholden to for days, and I know that many things are not mine to decide anymore. Even our tears have been planned for us."