It’s a common saying among actors that the script does most of the work. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible for a great writer to make art out of a bad story? At The Kenyon Review’s blog, Amit Majmudar says it is, using Shakespeare as proof. Related: five experts on the Bard’s greatest plays.
“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.
“All of a sudden, things that should be banal, like a person’s face—the fact that a person has a face—becomes extremely disorienting. In these moments, I think it’s important to keep those strange commas.” In an illuminating interview for Asymptote, Year in Reading alumna Katrina Dodson talks about the thrills and challenges in translating The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector. Pair with Magdalena Edwards’s Millions review of the collection.
Erika Anderson recites her teenage poetry at readings and shares her reasoning for doing so. “I want to live where irony meets kindness, where daring meets bullshit, where everything that failed meets the hope that something might not. I hope my readers do too.”
Esquire offers up a terrific time sink, “The 7 Greatest Stories in the History of Esquire Magazine.” Included among these gems of long-form journalism, which are all reprinted in full, is Richard Ben Cramer’s “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” which appeared on the list of best sports journalism we ran last month.Not long ago, we discussed the books that first stoked our love for reading. The Guardian takes it one step further, asking “What were your favourite books before you could read?“A brief YouTube profile of Annette Gordon-Reed, National Book Award winner for The Hemingses of Monticello.From The Morning News, a slightly insane, moderately epic profile of Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir.Also from The Morning News, a bit about The Chicagoan, the long-lost New Yorker-esque magazine for the Second City, now memorialized in coffee-table book form. If ever any cities (besides New York of course) could be granted New Yorker-like magazines, Chicago and Los Angeles would be deserving. BoingBoing points to some pdf excerpts of the book.Poll watching savant Nate Silver takes execrable rabble-rouser John Ziegler to task for a dubious survey of Obama supporters. Petulance ensues.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the new books and culture website The Nervous Breakdown. They’ve already got a great interview with Millions favorite Dan Chaon, as well as some interesting essays that I’m looking forward to digging into. I also like their “self-interview” series–where writers ask, and answer, their own questions.