At some point, Machiavelli became Machiavellian, which is to say that his personal views evolved into the self-centered credo we recognize. At Salon, an excerpt of a new biography of the writer, which digs up the formative events of his early life.
The world isn’t exactly wanting for character studies of Captain Ahab, but Chris Power manages to come up with a novel analysis of the character in this essay about the Moby-Dick antagonist. In Power’s telling, Ahab was valuable in part for what he told us about the 20th century — namely, he foreshadowed the dictators and despots to come. You could also read Hester Blum’s contribution to this essay about the best American novels.
“Their deliberately childless life, their cat, Converse (named not for the shoe but for the political scientist), their free-range beef and nights and weekends of reading and grading and high-quality television series—it was fine and a little horrible. She gets it.” It shouldn’t take much convincing to get you to go and read some new fiction by Curtis Sittenfeld, Gender Studies, over at The New Yorker.
This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the “dispassionate first-person narrators” prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. “Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian.”
I know, I know – another piece about “the canon.” This one, however, is sure to elicit a response one way or another. A sampling: “There are few (arguably no) female poets writing in Chaucer’s time who rival Chaucer in wit, transgressiveness, texture, or psychological insight. The lack of equal opportunity was a tremendous injustice stemming from oppressive social norms, but we can’t reverse it by willing brilliant female wordsmiths into the past. Same goes for people of color in Wordsworth’s day, or openly queer people in Pope’s, or …”
“Why on earth would you start a literary magazine?” In an essay for The New Yorker Stephen Burt offers a wide variety of answers, from promoting a new genre to promoting one’s friends. His article pairs well with our own Nick Ripatrazone‘s lit mag question and answer: “What is the wider cultural influence of literary magazines? I am not sure there needs to be one.”