Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, “Last Letter,” was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
Recommended Reading: The New York Times’s feature on Dana Spiotta. “When Dana Spiotta was working on her fourth novel, Innocents and Others, she sat beneath a huge bulletin board pinned with her sticky notes and research materials: lists of relevant words (passion, transformation, intimacy) and ‘seeing’ devices (zoetrope, stereoscope, camera obscura), and photographs of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard and the Maysles brothers. ‘It’s like walking into the book,’ Spiotta told me. ‘You feel it all around you.’” To prepare for her upcoming release, revisit our review of Stone Arabia.
One of the more common questions that comes up in The Nervous Breakdown’s self-interviews is what the subjects consider to be the hardest part of the writing life. The most recent edition sees Jac Jemc, whose latest came out last week, admit that time is what foils her: “Everything takes longer than I think it will, more drafts than I think it will.” This might be a good time to look back on some earlier examples of the form.
Remember when Chipotle started publishing famous authors like Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Neil Gaiman on their cups and burrito-toting bags? Well, now's your chance to join them. The fast-food chain is holding a contest for student writers, and the prizewinning responses to the prompt "write about a time when food created a memory" will be printed on those same cups and brown paper bags across the country. Oh, and there's a $20,000 scholarship, too.
This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the "dispassionate first-person narrators" prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. "Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian."
French-Canadian writers are in an odd place when it comes to Canadian literature. By the official definition of CanLit, they’re part of the canon, yet because of the Quebecois language barrier, they maintain a certain distance from the literature of English Canada. At Page-Turner, Pasha Malla writes about their odd identity. You could also read Andrew Saikali on Canadian novellas.