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.
Psychotherapist Ariel Garten redefines consciousness at TEDx Toronto. “The problem with escaping your day-to-day life,” she says, “is that you have to come home eventually.” Her question, which she answers in the affirmative, is whether we can “find ways to know ourselves without the escape? Can we redefine our relationship with the technologized world in order to have the heightened sense of self-awareness that we seek? Can we live here and now in our wired web, and still follow those ancient instructions: ‘Know thyself’?”
“I think the key to social media for authors is remembering this: its main purpose is really to show that you are a real human being who lives in this world.” Year in Reading alums (respectively) Celeste Ng, Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, and Adam M. Grant talk to LitHub about how to be a writer on the internet.
Growing up in California, our own Michael Bourne didn’t have a full sense of his own privilege until 1981, when a chance encounter with a group of teenagers dressed up as skeletons woke him up to the realities of segregation in America. In a long essay for Orange Coast Review, he goes over the meaning of that incident, complete with meditations on Marin County, his abandoned early novel and his family’s history in Danville, Virginia. Pair with: Michael’s piece for The Millions on Tess Taylor’s The Forage House.
Recommended Reading: Ted Widmer on the miscellaneous writings of Abraham Lincoln.
Trader Joe’s, circa 1877: “It’s always the same complaint: ‘Joe, you don’t have any of the essential items that every other trading post has. Why don’t you have saddles? Or gunpowder? Or basic tools?’ Because I have soy chorizo, that’s why! Because I have chocolate-covered peanut-butter-filled pretzels!”
In case you missed it: JK Rowling just released a new Harry Potter short story on her own promotional website. Before you get too excited: the New Republic is less than sanguine, calling it “a marketing scam.” (Code for: not very good writing?) Which is not going to keep me from reading it anyway. Readers with more restraint might note that “You don’t have to be a Barthesian grad student to chafe at Rowling’s impulse to clarify the words on the page.” (Pair with our discussion of fan fiction and the afterlife of literature.)