We’ve covered the Atlantic series By Heart a number of times before. It features notable authors writing about their favorite passages. In the latest edition, Mary-Beth Hughes picks out a paragraph from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, about a poet who’s trying to cope with grief. Sample quote: “Reading Fitzgerald, I felt it was possible to write as I’d experienced dancing.”
After thirty years, Larry Kramer has finished his novel The American People, which he prefers to consider a new form of nonfiction. In the novel, a narrator based largely on Kramer writes a historical expose, also titled The American People, in which numerous American icons are described as having been gay. As Kramer says, he wrote the book in part out of a feeling that gay people are excluded from history books.
Granta has a new series in which authors explain how they arrived at successful opening sentences. In the latest installment, Colombian author Héctor Abad links the brain chemistry that inspired him to write his chosen sentence with the chemistry that inspired him to fall in love with his wife.
In the Winter 2013 issue of The Paris Review, Kevin Prufer published a poem, “How He Loved Them,” that tackled the aftermath of a car bomb explosion outside of a courthouse. On the magazine’s blog, Robyn Creswell interviews Prufer, who laments that “somehow, when we enter the territory of politics, we expect our poems to shill for votes, to argue strongly for particular beliefs.” (He also has a new book out.)
Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)