“‘What pleases the PUBLIC is always what’s most banal,’ he wrote to his brother in 1883. But nowadays Van Gogh pleases the public enormously. So has he become banal?” Julian Barnes reflects on Van Gogh’s life and work and how our perception of him has changed over time in a London Review of Books podcast. Interested in contemporary art? Check out our own Bill Morris’s piece on the Whitney Museum.
The recent passing of Christopher Hitchens has led to numerous praiseful eulogies. Many have been (and he would’ve hated this…) hagiographic. Now, in an article for The Nation, Katha Pollitt seeks to “complicate the picture … at the risk of seeming churlish” to allege that the man “had virtually no interest in women’s writing or women’s lives or perspectives.”
A new MOOC from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program is scheduled to begin on June 28. “How Writers Write Poetry” is free and open to the public, and it will feature craft talks from poets such as Robert Hass and Kwame Dawes. A fiction-writing course is also scheduled for September. (Related: Read how several Iowa MFA students describe a typical day in the program.)
Is hardcover the new vinyl? Over at The Literary Hub, Yahdon Israel argues for the irreplaceable magic of tactility and print books: “There’s something gratifying about being able to underline a sentence or write a response in the margin of a book, knowing with certainty that it will be there later. I can’t get that guarantee from a phone. My data could be hacked, a new upgrade could wipe its memory, my battery could die mid-sentence and cause me to lose everything I’ve typed. They say that what goes up into the Cloud must come down, but ‘they’ can’t always be trusted—least of all with the things I value most, my books.”
Among the better tidbits from Gary Shteyngart’s diary of his book tour for Little Failure is the fact that he’s apparently had fellow Russian immigrants ask him to sign books for “a failed paralegal” and “a worse failure than even you.” If, after reading that, you’d like another dose of Shteyngart, you could do worse than his Year in Reading entry.
“At its core, the New York newspaper strike was a battle over technology. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of computerized typesetting systems that would revolutionize the newspaper composing room…Today, new technology is again shaking American newspapers as the Internet drains away more and more advertising revenue. Cities with dailies may soon face a newspaper blackout much darker than what New York experienced a half-century ago. For a brief period, New York was a laboratory that demonstrated what can happen when newspapers vanish,” writes Scott Sherman at Vanity Fair.