In his new book, one of three coming out now or soon, Australian poet Clive James assembles his decades of knowledge into a series of mini-essays, many of which originally appeared in Poetry magazine. At Slate, Katy Waldman reads the collection, explaining why it gave her the urge to quote James ad infinitum. You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on the poet’s book Cultural Amnesia.
Anwen Crawford reflects on newly published letters from Sylvia Plath; "The belief among many of Plath’s devotees seems to be that if we can get clear of other people’s fingerprints on her texts, allowing Plath to 'fully narrate her own autobiography,' as the editors here describe it, we will at last solve the riddle of her. The extremities of her poetry will balance against the circumstances of her life; the latter will equal the former. But her griefs were ordinary; it is what she did with them that wasn’t. Plath turned her common sorrows—dead father, mental illness, cheating husband—into something like an origin story for pain itself, as if her own pain preceded the world." In the New Yorker
Elmore Leonard was a very cinematic writer, yet why are most adaptations of his work so bad? Christopher Orr explores what he calls the "Elmore Leonard paradox" in The Atlantic. "Most of the early adaptations of Leonard’s crime work missed his light authorial touch, opting instead for somber noir." Pair with: Our own Bill Morris's essay on why Leonard was such a good writer.
"I found it hard to escape the sensation that I’d be teaching inside a giant metaphor." Rachel Kadish once taught a creative writing class in a bomb shelter, but rather than stifling her students' work, it allowed her to see how writing can act as a shelter, too.
The New York Times interviews Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and Tracy K. Smith, poet laureate of the United States for National Poetry Month. They discuss black history, bringing poetry to the central and rural parts of the country and to those who are incarcerated and why poetry isn't as popular among adults. "Listening to music and lyrics and watching movies, I think, uses a lot of the same muscles we use in reading and experiencing poetry — and yet we somehow forget that we have those when it comes to sitting down with a book of poems." It's a delight, happy Saturday!
Former Brat Packer Molly Ringwald makes her literary debut with When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories this week. Also out this week, Where'd You Go, Bernadette by comedy writer turned novelist Maria Semple, The St. Zita Society by Edgar Award-winner Ruth Rendell, and, in non-fiction, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall.