In 1979, William Gaddis taught a course at Bard College on “The Literature of Failure,” examining works that somehow focused on personal failure or insufficiency. These included, among other books, Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In Bookforum, Casey Michael Henry takes on a related genre: the literature of obsolescence. You could also read James Cappio on meeting Gaddis in person.
In an effort to get consumers to think more consciously about the “human cost” of commercial sugar production, artist Kara Walker has installed “Subtlety,” a large-scale public sculpture in Brooklyn’s iconic Domino Sugar Factory. Meanwhile, Edwidge Danticat explores contemporary labor conditions in the Dominican Republic’s cane fields.
There’s a reason Hemingway and Fitzgerald are usually thought of as being opposites on the masculinity spectrum. Hemingway, he of the grand works about boxing and bullfighting, is perhaps the patron saint of literary manhood, while Fitzgerald was often the definition of refinement. Yet their actual identities were a little more complicated than our images of them suggest. At The Paris Review Daily, a look at how they were thought of as “real men” — or not.
In an in-depth interview for Nomadic Press, Shira Erlichman describes what it’s like to make art while living with mental illness. As she puts it, “The thing that is so strange to me is that it was so wide-lensed. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you go crazy, like in the movies. You’re just suddenly crazy.’ But there was such a domino effect. One little thing—it’s almost like 70 dominoes lined up in one track that all lead to one conclusion.” Pair with Gila Lyons’s Millions essay on writing through illness.
The true confessions of Lev Grossman, book reviewer: “There was a time when I actually believed, because I was an ass, that as a critic I was an avenging angel with a flaming sword, and that part of my job was to help rid the culture of books that were sucking up more of the literary oxygen than they deserved.”