“Baldwin understood that if you are going to say something important about the world it is best if you try to say it beautifully. I don’t mean like picking flowers or writing on fancy stationery. I mean how you say it actually makes it a more meaningful piece of writing. I am going to push that further. It makes it a truer piece of writing. What you are saying is: ‘Can I make somebody feel this in a deeper way?’ That was what I was obsessed with.” Over at The Guardian, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about the success of Between the World and Me and being inspired by his father. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s essay on David Brooks and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In part because I loved Sam Anderson’s riff on Barthes in this weekend’s NYT Magazine so much, I was thrilled to see Maud Newton tweet this link this 2010 article on Barthes’s handwriting, featuring a slideshow of note cards Barthes used to compose his Mourning Diary.
“When people are young adults, they have these packs, or tribes, that they form. Those connections are very real, and yet another, more powerful social narrative is that you’re supposed to pair off and have children—and never see your friends again. In the case of the gay world, there’s an additional element, in which you’re supposed to spin away from your straight friends and be part of a gay world. Both ideas of adulthood are sad to me, and I was attracted to a group of friends as a lost paradise, and one that there’s no way to keep.” At The Paris Review Daily, Anna Altman talks with Caleb Crain about his new book, Necessary Errors.
What happened to the literature of clothing? Writers like Balzac and Proust wrote philosophies of clothing, but nowadays there seems to be a wall between literary writing and fashion. In Public Books, Mary Davis reads Women in Clothes, a collection which reveals a lot about how much our views of fashion writing have changed. FYI, Rachel Signer reviewed the book for The Millions.
Peter Mendelsund writes for the Paris Review about how we see, or think we see, fictional characters. “Characters are ciphers. … We are ever reviewing and reconsidering our mental portraits of characters in novels: amending them, backtracking to check on them, updating them when new information arises.”
Sinclair Lewis tried to warn us and we didn’t listen–it can always happen here. Over at The Literary Hub, this piece takes a look at Lewis’s 1935 political novel It Can’t Happen Here as a mirror for Donald Trump’s unlikely rise to political superstardom.
“One of the advantages to being a novelist is removing oneself from the chatter of the fray and trying to get a read and a historical context on what’s happening in one’s own time.” The Guardian interviews Rachel Kushner about women’s prisons, remorse, and her new novel, The Mars Room. Pair with: our review calls Kushner’s latest a “brutal, unforgiving, and often grimly funny tour de force of wasted lives.”