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.”
“Aspiring journalists tend to worship at the altar of Joan Didion,” writes Heather Havrilesky (who some of you may know as Polly) in the latest issue of Bookforum. The fact that so many writers look up to Didion as an example necessitates that the lit world find at least one offbeat alternative. In Havrilesky’s eyes, that alternative is obvious: the late Nora Ephron was the anti-Didion, she argues.
“With each step, I had to remind myself to touch pavement again, as if in a moment’s forgetfulness I might slip the earth’s magnetic pull and go pinwheeling over Sydney Harbor and out to sea,” our own Michael Bourne writes in his Dispatches column at The Common, “Stanley Street.”
Olivia Laing has written an entire book about male writers and their relationships with alcohol, The Trip to Echo Spring, but in a piece for The Guardian she returns to the subject of writers and drink in order to respond to the question, what about women writers? Were any of them alcoholics? “Yes,” she writes, “of course.” She goes on to discuss the lives and work of Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, Elizabeth Bishop and Patricia Highsmith, their reasons for drinking and their experiences in a society much more willing to accept the struggles of men than of women. For more from Laing, be sure to check out her Year in Reading for 2013.
“Unlike, say, skimming a page of headlines, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay.” Readers Digest compiles the latest research about why you should read (via Book Riot).
First there was The Hunger Games summer camp, and now there will be a Divergent theme camp in Naperville, Illinois. Camp Divergent will feature activities based on the five factions, such as brain teasers on Erudite day and planting vegetables on Amity day. Don’t worry; no one will be ziplining off of a skyscraper for Dauntless.
Michael Lewis gave the 2012 Baccalaureate Address at Princeton University this year, and used his time to speak about life experience, the strange paths we take after graduation, and everyone’s “debt to the unlucky.” You can watch the speech here, or you can read the transcript here.