Recommended listening: Benjamin Percy, whose novel The Dead Lands was released just this week, sings “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Writers” for the debut episode of Poets & Writers‘s new podcast, Ampersand.
“If Gwendolyn Brooks wrote fiction, we’d say she was brilliant at world-building–but the world she builds is the real one, the part that didn’t used to make it into the pages of literary magazines.” On the continued relevance of Brooks’s poetry in the context of racial violence in Chicago. Pair with a piece on the power of reading poetry aloud.
Tim Parks investigates the idea of “writing to death” in the cases of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens and William Faulkner. “So many of the writers I have looked at seem permanently torn between irreconcilable positions,” Parks writes. “Eventually, the dilemma driving the work either leads to death, or is neutralized in a way that prolongs life but dulls the writing” (Bonus: Our own Mark O’Connell just reviewed Parks’s latest book, Italian Ways.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged (and recently addressed in Barclay Bram Shoekmaker‘s Millions review of Mo Yan‘s Frog) that literary translation is an imperfect art, and this list of mistranslated “literary moments” only offers more evidence for the claim. But for every serious blunder there’s also a truly ridiculous one (or more). For example, the French translated the title of Animal Farm as Animals Everywhere!, which sounds a lot like a charming children’s book and not at all like Orwell.
“Now, I’m not going to lie. It’s annoying, to have to take time out of my incredibly busy writing schedule in order to spell it all out for young people, just because they spend most of their daylight hours being urged by hoary old theorists in threadbare sweaters to write experimental fiction that will never sell. But I care deeply about the young—all of them, the world’s young—so of course I am humbled and honored to share the trade secrets embedded in my rigorous daily work schedule.” Heather Havrilesky on her writing life.