“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?
“Think of landscape. Think of how elements come to be attached to one another, how it’s impossible to separate the road from the field, the field from the tree, the tree from the water, the water from the sky. We cannot attribute natural features to the lines we design just as we cannot attribute natural causes to those dying as they try to cross them.” For Tin House, Portuguese writer Susana Moreira Marques meditates on the concept of borders and Wolf Böwig’s photography project, “Borders and Beyond.”
Allan Gurganus commemorates the 100th anniversary of his teacher and friend John Cheever’s birth. “Cheever, now unfairly known as the gloomy, sodden satyr of suburbia,” Gurganus writes, “was at least rarely gloomy. Fact is he was more fun per minute than is legal in a nation this Republican.”
Blackout, the recent memoir by Sarah Hepola, chronicles the author’s long struggle with reckless drinking. The title references the total loss of memory she experienced after some of her worst benders. At The Morning News, Rosecrans Baldwin talks with Hepola about her book, amnesia and the nature of memory.