“I’ve learned that people—writers and non-writers alike—don’t like that word. Failure…. I take a bizarre pleasure, now, in using that word. Maybe because during my decade as a failed writer, the one thing that took the edge off was wallowing in that failure—carefully, in a proscribed fashion, like having a drink when you’re still hungover.” Stephanie Feldman writes for Vol. 1 Brooklyn about being a literary failure, about the two books she wrote and never published, and about the one she finally did. Pair with the stories of these 5 writers and their failed “novels in drawers.”
When, in 1921, a young French writer working as a translator for James Joyce asked the writer to reveal his schema for Ulysses, Joyce balked, saying that “If I gave it all up immediately, I’d lose my immortality.” What he meant, at least in part, is that he wanted his opus to be relevant in perpetuity. At Full-Stop, Dustin Illingworth reads Ulysses on Twitter and asks: can the book survive the transition from the page to social media? Pair with: Josh Cook on The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios.
With the preliminaries out of the way, The Morning News Tournament of books unveils its first head-to-head matchup today, Teddy Wayne's Kapitoil versus Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Don't miss the commentary that accompanies each judgment (some say it's the best part of the whole thing.)
"His life's work, and his stunning prose, teaches us to better understand political influence, American democracy, and the true power of biography." The National Book Foundation just announced Robert Caro as this year's recipient of the National Book Awards lifetime achievement medal. Definitely pair with this piece by our own Michael Bourne on Caro's epic literary ambitions.
Jonathan Franzen's 2011 Kenyon commencement speech, published this weekend in the New York Times, covers love, consumerism, and narcissism in the digital age. If you're concerned with critical reception, looks like you're not a creator of "serious art and literature," in Franzen's eyes.
“A coroner’s pronouncement of suicide (felo da se) resulted in forfeiture of the deceased’s goods and property to the state, often leaving any surviving relatives destitute. So the increasingly common verdict of temporary insanity (non compos mentis) may suggest a change in how people understood the act of self-destruction: no longer construed as a demonic temptation, it came instead to be viewed as a symptom of lunacy.” On the prevalence of suicide in eighteenth-century English literature.