In the late seventies, when Susan Sontag was recovering from cancer, she hired an assistant to help her catch up on correspondence. Her editor recommended Sigrid Nunez, who began working for Sontag and ended up moving in with her. Nunez now recalls the experience with a mixture of gratitude and pain. In Dissent, a look at the economy of creative assistants.
The new issue of Story South dedicated its “Special Feature: Southern Poets” section to the work of Kathryn Stripling Byer. To wit, you can check out two of her poems – “Waiting for Bob” and “Making Myself at Home” – as well as an interview between her and Terry Kennedy, and a review of her latest collection, Descent.
“But was I actually reading? I regarded myself as a reader, but were these really books?” In LitHub, James Tate Hill pens an essay about reading while visually impaired and the questions it raises in a print book obsessed world. Pair with: our own Bill Morris on hearing an actor narrate his novel’s audiobook.
Happy Freedom Day: The work at the center of all the reviews, magazine covers, and even, of course, controversy, has arrived. Jonathan Franzen’s long-awaited novel Freedom hits shelves today. Our review. Also out today is Booker longlister Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. Another newly translated Roberto Bolaño is out, The Insufferable Gaucho. As is You Were Wrong by Jamestown author Matthew Sharpe. Finally, fashion fans will dig vintage Japanese prepster handbook Take Ivy.
Recommended Reading: Ottessa Moshfegh on eating mayonnaise for the first time.
For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean’s about his life, his escape, and literature.
“Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the ‘business of literature.’ Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself.” Twenty-first century publishing works in mysterious ways.