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.
Over the course of a half-century, Vladimir Nabokov wrote hundreds of letters to his wife Vera, which are being published in book form this week for the first time. Among other things, they reveal the absurd pet names he invented for her (such as Goosykins and Monkeykins) and display Nabokov musing over whether or not to borrow a friend’s castle for the summer. Also worth reading: our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor.
What was the very first ebook? It’s hard to say with any degree of precision, but a pretty good candidate is Peter James’s Host, which was copied and stored on a floppy disk back in 1993. At The Guardian, a look back at the early life of the format. You could also read David Rothman’s tribute to the ebook pioneer Michael Hart. (h/t The Paris Review)
Ninth Letter recently launched “Only Silence Will Never Betray You,” a mini-anthology of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Editor-at-Large Philip Graham introduces the five writers: Ivayla Alexandrova, Bistra Andreeva, Nikolai Grozni, Georgi Gospodinov, and Marin Bodakov. From our archives: our 2013 interview with Grozni.
In literature and film, there are epic heroes, Campbellian heroes, romantic heroes and tragic heroes. Less well-known is the Byronic hero, whose personality is rakish, extravagant and otherwise similar to Lord Byron. At the Ploughshares blog, a literary blueprint of the archetype. You could also read Jennifer Egan on Byron’s Don Juan.
It’s not hard to find studies of the connection between creativity and alcohol. It’s a connection which great minds have remarked upon for centuries. But what’s less remarked upon is a more everyday relationship — the connection between great writing and food. In The New York Review of Books, Patricia Storace reads Sandra M. Gilbert’s The Culinary Imagination. (Related: Stephanie Bernhard tries out Hemingway’s recipes.)