Recommended Reading: On Carmen Balcells, “The Woman Behind Latin America’s Literary Boom,” in The New Yorker. Her authors called her “Big Mama” after Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s queen of Macondo. She worked with many of the authors included on our Latin American Nobel Candidates list.
The Millions is adding a new staff writer today. Join us in welcoming Bill Morris. Bill most recently wrote a consideration of China Miéville for the site this week, his fifth piece for us thus far. Bill is the author of the novels Motor City and All Souls’ Day. His writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, L.A. Weekly, the (London) Independent, the Washington Post Magazine and the website Aolnews.com. He lives in New York City.
If you thought the English language went downhill when the emoticon was introduced, you can blame a 17th-century poet. Editor Levi Stahl found that English poet Robert Herrick used the first emoticon in his 1648 poem “To Fortune.” As Herrick writes, “Tumble me down, and I will sit/ Upon my ruines (smiling yet :)” For more on the potential ruin of language, read Fiona Maazel’s piece on commercial grammar.
Remember that time Amtrak offered a 10-day train residency, and the internet experienced a collective freakout because trains are literary catnip, and then we found out it was kind of a scam? Barnard Zine Library does, too. In honor of that cultural moment, they recently sponsored an “MTA Residency” that, while less glamorous, has already yielded beautiful work.
Instead of capitalizing on his newfound momentum by hitting the campaign trail hard, Herman Cain this week opted to spend most of his time promoting his book, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House, which just arrived in retail stores this week.
In a By Heart piece for The Atlantic, Harriet Lane writes about the “bleak precise nature” of Philip Larkin‘s poetry (what Stephen Akey called “The Poetry of Mental Unhealth” in a Millions review) and about the power inherent in writing fiction. “In my everyday life I have no control, really: who does? But on paper, I hold all the cards. Fiction provides you with a way to shape a world, to exert the kind of power and agency our real lives so often lack.”