“Updike stopped cartooning while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. This is a factually true statement, but it ignores a larger reality. While Updike might have ceased cartooning, the visual language of comics was never far from his mind. Cartooning was an inextricable strand in his creative DNA.” Jeet Heer writes about John Updike, cartooning, fandom and “bedesque” prose for The Paris Review. Pair with James Santel‘s Millions essay on “The Curious Paradox of John Updike.”
“Presenting female writers as sexualized and frivolous diminishes their intellectual credentials, tarnishes their work as slight, not to be taken seriously.” The cover of the U.K. edition of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, a new collection of unpublished correspondence by the late author, features her in a bikini because, sexism. Pair with "Sexy Backs and Headless Women: A Book Cover Manifesto."
Just because Beowulf's influence on Tolkien isn't news doesn't mean the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of the epic poem this week isn't exciting. But while Tolkien's name alone may be enough for the serious fan, Ethan Gilsdorf at the New York Times has given general readers an introduction to the history of the new translation complete with some insight into Tolkien's love of the epic poem.
Reif Larsen's "The Crying of Page 45" appears in this month's issue of The Believer. This clever, inventive essay is excerpted from the book I co-edited The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. You can get a taste of the piece at The Believer website, but the full essay in all its illustrated glory is available in the print magazine as well as in, of course, the book.
What makes a sentence sad? At The Missouri Review blog, Aaron Gilbreath explores just why certain sentences are depressing — from A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner to James Joyce's "Eveline." "Their emotional impact doesn’t stem solely from the combination of words. The impact often results from the circumstances of readers’ lives." Pair with: Sam Martone's metafictional short story about his grandmothers' deaths, "A Second Attempt," at Pithead Chapel.
“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso on envy and the purpose of writing. Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness.