"How could we possibly trust any creature that comes into the world wearing such a caul of ambiguity? That’s “essayists.” Four hundred and four years later, they continue to flourish." John Jeremiah Sullivan offers a loose history of the essay, essayists, and all their many contradictions in a piece for The New Yorker.
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
“The last thing your creative brain needs is a klaxon shouting WRONG while you’re in the middle of a creative thought. Eventually, as you use Neo, you’ll stop thinking about spelling and typos. This will push your creativity to the next level. You can always step through a spell check any time you like. But not while you’re writing.” Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, proposes a new word processor called Neo.“I’m currently talking with programmers and consultants on how to get this done,” he writes on his blog, describing the application's potential features. “Might be a decade before anything comes to light, so don’t hold your breath. But I’m willing to invest the time and money to make this a reality.” Pair with programmer Philip Hopkins's meditation on code and writing.
“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.") See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Ukraine is investing approximately $61 million in order to “bolster [the nation’s] reading, publishing and bookselling beginning in 2014 and lasting through 2018.” One concern held by Ukranian literati is the rapidly expanding influx of Russian writing, which some claim have been “push[ing] books from Ukrainian publishers and authors off the shelves.” Meanwhile, Russia recently announced a $100 million stimulus package for its own book industry.