“I’m not a journalist, and I don’t pretend to be one, and most of the pieces in there were assigned to me by Harper’s, with these sort of maddening instructions of, you know, just go to a certain spot and kind of, you know, turn 350 degrees a few times and tell us what you see.” Tom Scocca posts a five-part transcript of a phone interview he did with David Foster Wallace in February 1998. (Thanks, Nick.)
Out this week: Andrew’s Brain by E.L. Doctorow; Perfect by Rachel Joyce; A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor; Selected Letters of Robert Creeley; The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart; and new paperback editions of Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters and Year in Reading favorite Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers.
“You have a hard time imagining how the things you’ve experienced or discovered, which seem abjectly personal, could be of use to another writer. You’re aware that you can follow every single rule in the book, and still write a crappy story.” The Preservationist author Justin Kramon grapples with the idea of teaching writing to college students.
Recommended Reading, if you have the time: the full archives of the famed Partisan Review (published from 1934 to 2003) are now available online, searchable, and completely free. Essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews in the vault include work by Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, Franz Kafka, Doris Lessing, George Orwell, Marge Piercy, Jean-Paul Sartre, Roger Shattuck, Susan Sontag, William Styron, Lionel Trilling, and Robert Penn Warren. A worthy epitaph: “The Partisan Review is finished, but its vision has triumphed.”
“The half-stripped trees / struck by a wind together, / bending all, / snapping before the power of… / thundersnow? / Oh shit, do you see that? / Thundersnow!” It’s safe to say that William Carlos Williams would have been blown away by thundersnow. Here are a few other classic poems helpfully reimagined for the climate change age.
NY Press has a long look at the history of iconoclastic indie press Soft Skull, which recently shuttered its New York office, effectively ending the publisher’s run as a standalone press and making it just an imprint of California-based parent (and, it should be noted, rescuer from financial straights) Counterpoint. Incidentally, I’ve had a front row seat for all this, as, for the book I’m co-editing, I was initially working with the good folks in New York and then everything was suddenly (and thankfully without a hitch) transferred to the folks in Berkeley. (Thanks, Craig)