Recommended reading: Rachel Kushner writes about the Costa Concordia disaster, cruise ships in general, and her own short-lived “aspiration to spend time at sea as requisite literary training” for The London Review of Books.
“I thought there were would be more in this writing life, an easier path to walk. I write those words and know they are the unwise thoughts of my younger self and that I am still too stubborn to give up on my dreams. When Annie Dillard invited me outside for that smoke, she knew very well what it would mean to a young writer like me. She intuited my ambitions and it was her way of encouraging me.” This essay is ostensibly about smoking cigarettes and playing catch with Annie Dillard, but it’s also about the incredibly important role that an established writer can play in helping a struggling up-and-comer.
New this week: Amnesia by Peter Carey; Outline by Rachel Cusk; The First Bad Man by Miranda July; Binary Star by Sarah Gerard; Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; Refund by Karen Bender; In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen; Harraga by Boualem Sansal; and West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 First-Half Book Preview.
Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
If you’ve been on the Internet in the past week, you’ve probably heard about Beyoncé’s incredible new record, Lemonade. Noah Friedman at Wordshop 101 explains why Lemonade is great press for poets (particularly Warsan Shire, who is featured in the film). Andrew Kay writes on how reading poetry aloud connects us with the dead.
“Literary interviews became popular in the eighteen-eighties, but Richard Altick, the late professor of Victorian literature at Ohio State University, traces the public fascination with writers’ homes at least as far back as the eighteen-forties, when there was a vogue for books describing the houses and landscapes of famous authors, complete with engravings and, later, photographs.” On the strangeness of literary celebrity.