Harold Bloom turns eighty-five this year, which makes it all the more impressive that his forty-fifth book, The Daemon Knows, comes out this week. At Vulture, Amy Bloom (no relation) has tea and scones with the Yale professor, who talks about Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and why a critic called his new book “an invectorium.” You could also read Matt Hanson on his last volume of criticism.
“Kill ‘Em and Leave is [James] McBride’s own testament to [James] Brown’s philosophy. It’s a stunningly unorthodox book, indifferent to the conventions of biographical nonfiction … The book is a hybrid of forms, largely a telling of Brown’s life story and partly a telling of McBride’s search for that story, with digressions about the author’s own life, essayistic ruminations on Brown and his music, and free, looping riffs that have the energy of improvisation.” On James McBride’s unusual, unorthodox biography of the unusual, unorthodox James Brown.
One of the surprises of last week’s James Beard Awards was the runaway success of McSweeney’s offshoot Lucky Peach, which ended up taking home five out of seventeen awards. On John Birdsall’s Tumblr, you can read one of the winning essays, which bears the attention-grabbing title of “America, Your Food Is So Gay.” (Related: Jessica Ferri on food writing.)
Our staff writer Nick Ripatrazone has published two books in the last year – the short story collection Good People and the novella We Will Listen For You – and both have recently been reviewed in New Jersey papers, which agree that the books are “an invitation to look beyond the stone walls of churches and gape in wonder at the world and the unknowable vistas beyond.” Pair with Nick’s ever-relevant essays on teaching English and becoming a writer, not a priest.
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms “highbrow” and “lowbrow,” here’s an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.