Over at the New Yorker, Akhil Sharma argues that “Anton Chekhov’s “Sakhalin Island“, his long investigation of prison conditions in Siberia, is the best work of journalism written in the nineteenth century.” Pair Sharma’s argument, and admiration, with our own Sonya Chung‘s “I Heart Checkov” essay.
“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?
“We editors told ourselves the naked women were merely carnival barkers: they got an audience into the tent, but we kept them with the content.” In the Guardian, Playboy‘s former fiction editor Amy Grace Loyd reveals what it was like to work at the magazine and how she commissioned work from writers like Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood, and Junot Díaz. Read our review of Loyd’s debut novel, The Affairs of Others.
“A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.” Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it’s because he has “a bit of the opposition in him.” This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.