“Writers teach, not writing per se, but how to engage in writing as a process and a means of perception. The actual work of writing is seldom sublime. It’s a struggle that grows more difficult if we avoid it. Writing is often excruciatingly slow and repetitive. Time, in slipping and sliding, makes itself felt and immediate. Words are the way in, but nothing is guaranteed. What writers or readers can do with language, or understand inside it, depends on what they know—on refining their sensibilities, on writing, revising, waiting, reading, writing, as though living in language were life and death.” Year in Reading alumna Jayne Anne Phillips writes for the Literary Hub about the importance of writing programs. For more on the debate, check out Hannah Gersen’s Millions essay.
Stop reading this post if you have things to do. Still here? You’ve been warned. Ray Cadaster compiled a list of The 50 Most Interesting Articles on Wikipedia, and then followed it up with a sequel containing 50 more. Over at Ploughshares, Justin Alvarez discusses his favorites among both lists, and he asks readers to share their best discoveries. As you go through these articles, keep an eye peeled for posts worthy of Citation Needed.
“if I am going to set a novel in a real place, in a real time, I must get all the details right. I should not put a wall around Washington Square, start the Iraq War in 2005, or claim that maple trees bear acorns. This matters because it has to do with keeping faith with your readers. If you get something verifiable wrong, why should they believe you when you really are making things up?” Helen Benedict for Amazon Author Insights on finding the balance between research and imagination when writing fiction. (Full disclosure, Amazon helps us pay the bills around here!)
The New York Public Library just acquired Tom Wolfe’s archives for $2.15 million. They include 190 boxes of drafts, outlines, and research for his articles and books as well as 10,000 letters from the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Gay Talese. But the library missed the opportunity to get one of his famous white suits because as Wolfe said, “Those are the things I really can’t part with.” Here’s one of our favorite Wolfe essays, “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s.”
“‘So your idea is to drive across America and write about it without talking to a single American?’ ‘Yes.'” Karl Ove Knausgaard travels North America as “a tongue-in-cheek Tocqueville” for the New York Times Magazine. Pair with his piece for The Millions, “The View from My Window is a Constant Reminder,” and with Jonathan Callahan‘s reading of Knausgaard’s My Struggle.