“I can still remember with complete clarity the way I felt when whatever it was came fluttering down into my hands that day 30 years ago on the grass behind the outfield fence at Jingu Stadium; and I recall just as clearly the warmth of the wounded pigeon I picked up in those same hands that spring afternoon a year later, near Sendagaya Elementary School. I always call up those sensations whenever I think about what it means to write a novel.” Haruki Murakami on “The Moment [He] Became a Novelist,” excerpted on Lit Hub from the new double edition of his first novels, Wind/Pinball.
Francis Spufford’s fictionalized book Red Plenty looks to the 1950s-1960s “cybernetics” initiative to answer one of the main questions about the USSR: “Could the Soviet project to build communism have succeeded, or was it doomed to failure from the start?” In his review for The Hoover Institution, Marshall Poe contends the latter.
“I have come to realize how much I have, throughout my life, bought into the narrative of this alluring myth of personal responsibility and excellence. I realize how much I believe that all good things will come if I—if we—just work hard enough.” Year in Reading alum Roxane Gay writes for VQR Online about “The Price of Black Ambition.” Pair with our review of An Untamed State.
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”
There is going to be a documentary about Joan Didion. We repeat: a documentary about Joan Didion. This is not a drill. Watch the opening trailer and consider donating to the Kickstarter campaign here, and be sure to read our own Michael Borne‘s review of Blue Nights and S.J. Culver‘s Millions essay on “Getting Out: Escaping with Joan Didion.”
File under events you won’t want to miss: Kate Zambreno hosts her second Belladonna* Prose Event this Tuesday in New York, featuring three leading ladies of innovative lit. Renee Gladman, Danielle Dutton, and Amina Cain will discuss the walker as essayist, flaneuring through urban space, and skirting the margins of genre. 7:30pm, at Dixon Place.
“In a new biography, The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Laura Claridge argues that Blanche Knopf was actually the more important and influential of the two Knopfs. That’s a stretch, but her book is still a long-overdue acknowledgment of the pioneering role Blanche played at a time when women were nearly invisible in the business world.” Find out more about Blanche Knopf at The New Yorker. Edan Lepucki’s 2011-2012 list on why not to self-publish is still relevant.
Call it the Eat, Pray, Love effect for the nature lover. Cheryl Strayed fans are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after being inspired by Wild. Strayed says she’s received more than 1,000 emails from people ready to lace up their hiking boots, but a trail information specialist says he’s only seen six women make the full trek.