Having kicked off his career with a book of poetry, it’s not surprising that Ben Lerner is interested in the late Johns Hopkins professor Allen Grossman, who theorized that people dislike poetry because poems are — by definition — failures. In a piece for the LRB, he runs through the implications of Grossman’s theory, touching on poets as disparate as Shakespeare and William McGonagall. Pair with Kate Angus on why Americans don’t buy poetry books.
What happens if your town’s reputation was made by an author who hated it? Sinclair Lewis grew up in Sauk Centre, Minnesota and scathingly satirized it in Main Street (our Modern Library Revue of it), but it’s the town’s only claim to fame nearly a century later. At The Morning News, Matt Ray Robison visits.
When Hanna Rosin published The End of Men this year, the book stirred up a lot of controversy (and a number of parodies, to boot). Now Stephanie Coontz, a historian, takes issue with Rosin’s premise — the “myth of male decline” — in the pages of The New York Times Book Review.
We know Ernest Hemingway could drink, but he also could make an excellent burger. At The Paris Review blog, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan cooked up Papa’s famous patty. “The burger was delicious: each bit of it oozed a complex and textured umami, earthy and deep,” she writes. In other Hemingway news, Harper’s will publish a forgotten story, “My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden,” in its October issue, but only because Hemingway’s estate wouldn’t let Vanity Fair print it. The magazine rejected the story in 1924 and as his son put it, “I’m not a great fan of Vanity Fair. It’s a sort of luxury thinker’s magazine, for people who get their satisfaction out of driving a Jaguar instead of a Mini.”
At the Electric Literature blog, Judson Merrill responds to his many rejection letters: “If you were that excited about my submission, I’m concerned you may have read it with unfair expectations… I’ve reattached my submission under the new title ‘Eight Pages of Tripe’…”
Out this week: The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano; The Last Wolf & Herman by László Krasznahorkai; Deceit and Other Possibilities by Vanessa Hua; Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin; Time Travel: A History by James Gleick; and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
Bet you didn’t know this Saturday was the 25th anniversary of the first “going postal” shootings in Oklahoma. I have a piece at The Morning News examining America’s export of this peculiar brand of spree killings around the world, most recently to Oslo, Norway.