“The best critics do more than explain why they liked or didn’t like a book; they try to understand books, and show other readers, by example, how to read and think about those books. Specialized expertise can work in service of that goal, but is probably not as important as a willingness to attempt to be a work’s most thoughtful reader.” Elisa Gabbert writes for Electric Literature about who gets to translate and review works and takes Kazuo Ishiguro‘s latest novel, The Buried Giant (which we reviewed here), as a case study.
The Atlantic interviews Erin Gruwell, a teacher whose methods for teaching her students about prejudice became the basis of a book (and subsequent movie) called The Freedom Writers. Named after a group of bus-riding civil rights activists, the students in her classes wrote lengthy journal entries — many of them relating to their own personal traumas — in order to compare them with diaries by historical figures. Writing journals, Gruwell says, helped her students learn to like schoolwork.
At Flavorwire Jonathan Sturgeon considers what we’ve learned from Dubliners in the hundred years since it was first published and argues that “when it comes to realism, Dubliners, more than even Chekhov’s short fiction, is the model we routinely fail to live up to.” Sturgeon’s reflections on Joyce‘s free indirect discourse pair well with Jonathan Russell Clark‘s Millions essay on close writing, and his essay isn’t completely without hope: he concludes with a few books that, “on the surface, look nothing like Dubliners, but, in spirit… show that Joyce’s book still lives 100 years on.”
“A continuation of a book that has proved very popular seldom is successful, and we cannot say that we think Alice’s adventures by any means equal to her previous ones.” The Guardian digs up its original review of Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking Glass.
Geoff Dyer endorses Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station , John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead –our own Bill Morris loves it too!–and a generalized aversion toward seafood in his interview with Morten Høi Jensen for Book Forum. While they ostensibly met to talk about Zona–reviewed on The Millions here–it’s perhaps unsurprising that they managed to digress so liberally: “we chatted about his review of Richard Bradford’s Martin Amis: the Biography, and by the end he was giving me advice about which David Markson book I should read first. Our interview, in other words, assumed the shape of a Geoff Dyer book.”
“[L]et’s not pull punches — misogyny has disfigured how Dickinson’s story is told. We’re missing out on a fierce mind when we reduce her to a spinster perseverating alone in her room writing poems to the ether.” A new Emily Dickinson exhibition proves the poet wasn’t nearly as much of a recluse as we’ve been led to think, writes Daniel Larkin for Hyperallergic. Pair with this piece on Paul Legault’s English-to-English translations of her poetry, which “transports Dickinson into mostly fortune-cookie length snippets of contemporary English, a dialect spoken widely in urban pockets like Brooklyn, where increasing numbers of the highly educated and literary classes live, procreate, keep each other amused, and make their own cheese.”
The word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek root nostos, meaning “return home,” and algos, or “pain.” It’s painful because we cannot return home again. Ramp up the nostalgia and check out this elegy to the old school book tour by Keith Lee Morris. If we’re talking book tours, here’s a piece on the distinct personality types sure to derail your literary event.