“I’ve always been interested in the internal shape-changes of the poem. In my student days, it was common to assume that the poem makes a statement — that it’s protesting war, or is grieving a death. My teachers, on the whole, didn’t see a poem as an evolving thing that might be saying something completely new at the end because it had changed its mind from whatever it had proposed at the beginning.” An interview with Harvard’s Helen Vendler about the structure of poetry, the benefits of studying science and mathematics, and the “miraculous” voices of Shakespeare and Keats.
“In Proust’s case, I think he helps us to see the world as it really is, not only its extraordinary beauty and diversity, but his observations make us aware of how we perceive and how we interact with others, showing us how often we are mistaken in our own assumptions and how easy it is to have a biased view of another person.” William C. Carter makes an argument as to why we should still read Proust. Our own Hannah Gersen has started a Proust Book Club.
Meet Shondaland, a new website created by Shonda Rhimes and dedicated to storytelling that launched this week. One of their most recent posts highlights 28 books to read this fall. We know there’s a lot of reading recommendation lists around this time of year (like our September preview) but we appreciate the diversity of this list in particular and its willingness to hold back judgment if we don’t finish all the suggestions. Pair with our interview with Jesmyn Ward (whose Sing, Unburied Sing made the list), along with Year in Reading alum Eleanor Henderson’s Twelve Mile Straight.
“To read something before it is accessible to all is both a privilege and an unfair advantage.” Je Banach’s notes on keeping the secrets of the books she writes about (e.g., Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage) are thoughtful, poignant, and tantalizingly spoiler-free.
“That’s why I’m organizing this fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, because for me the right to say what happens to my body is the right to make art.” Year-in-Reading alum Claire Vaye Watkins has launched “Dabbler’s Ball,” an art auction featuring work by some other boldtype names you might know (Ramona Ausubel, Lauren Groff, Tom McGuane, Emma Straub). Bidding runs until September 5th and 100% of the proceeds will go toward the venerable PP. See also: our reviews of Vaye Watkins’s novel Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn, her first story collection.
Veterans of writing workshops will know that a good story has a heavy dose of conflict. One can add it to a story in many ways, but one of the best and most reliable is to add a predator, either in the form of a threatening organisation or an animal or person with malicious intent. At the Ploughshares blog, Year in Reading alum Megan Mayhew Bergman reflects on predatory literature.