In a By Heart piece for The Atlantic, Harriet Lane writes about the “bleak precise nature” of Philip Larkin‘s poetry (what Stephen Akey called “The Poetry of Mental Unhealth” in a Millions review) and about the power inherent in writing fiction. “In my everyday life I have no control, really: who does? But on paper, I hold all the cards. Fiction provides you with a way to shape a world, to exert the kind of power and agency our real lives so often lack.”
“Books: As with food and clothing, they’re a commodity that elicits status anxiety for many people, particularly the insecure. And wherever there is status anxiety, there are potential minefields. We need to tread with the lightness of meringue.” Henry Alford explains the etiquette of books for The New York Times.
“There is a unity to all of Robinson’s work, and this is part of what makes her so great. Her writing expresses a consistent and compelling vision of the world—a vision that sees the real as revelatory, the everyday as wondrous, Spokane as leading to Galilee.” Anthony Domestico profiles Marilynne Robinson and her new novel Lila, which we’ve mentioned here and here and here, for Commonweal.
Over at Hyperallergic, Claire Voon tours the New York Public Library’s collection of historical erotica, ranging from graphic illustrations hidden in photo albums to mid-century gay erotica. Pair with this Millions essay on private libraries and what books reveal about their readers.
This week in book-related internet graphics: Penguin has created an interactive map of literary genres, complete with some very creatively shaped “countries”. As Electric Literature points out, “the fact that the map is aimed at current self-publishing authors explains why YA is it’s own continent while genres like Gothic fiction don’t exist.”
The new poet laureate of Canada wants to clue his readers in to the prevalence of poetry in their everyday lives. “People often don’t realize they’re surrounded by poetry,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “At the very least, it’s in the songs they listen to.”
Symmetry’s addictive. Beethoven sought it in the order of chords, Einstein in the logic of theory. Countless writers, too, have sought its imprint in the perfect mot juste. In Aeon Magazine, Philip Ball pleads fervently against the pursuit of beauty in logic, and logic in beauty. “There’s a reason why our galleries are not, on the whole, filled with paintings of perfect spheres… the search for an ideal, perfect Platonic form of the table amid spirals, hypercubes and pyramids has an air of desperation.”
If you’re the kind of person who might fall asleep while reading a page-turner, you’re not alone. For Read It Forward, Jonathan Russell Clark writes about the challenge of literary sleepiness. For more of his writing, check out his essay on the art of the final sentence for The Millions.