Recommended Reading: Meryl Cates of The Paris Review gets Millayed in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s gardens at Steepletop, the New England-style farmhouse where the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet worked and played. Pair with this essay from The Millions on reading writers’ houses.
“A couple of years ago I attended a British Council discussion about the state of contemporary writing and the creative future in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. When someone brought up the dearth of memoirs in the Nigerian literary landscape, almost everyone in the room laughed ruefully. Someone joked aloud, ‘We can’t write memoirs. We’d have to wait for parents to die. Not just parents – everyone who knows us, even!’ This concern is not limited to nonfiction.” Bim Adewunmi writes for BuzzFeed on African immigrants’ stories.
Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, talks to Noah Charney about his life, his work, and his taste in books. Answers are typical but insightful, with one incredibly colorful exception: Tanenhaus’s ideal workplace is bizarre. (Hint: The atmosphere falls somewhere between a nuclear fallout shelter and the kind of place you would keep a hostage and it’s nothing like where we write.)
New out this week is Gryphon, Charles Baxter's new collection of stories. Joseph McElroy also has a new collection of stories out, Night Soul. The latest McSweeney's (featuring that fragment from an abandoned novel by Michael Chabon) is now available, and new in paperback is Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America. Many more new books to look forward to, of course, in our massive preview published last week.
After his death, fans of David Foster Wallace canonized him as a prophet, according him a degree of benevolence shared by almost no one in American letters. In New York Magazine, Christian Lorentzen argues that Wallace himself worried about this happening, and says he’d “probably be the last person to argue for his sainthood.” His essay pairs nicely with Jonathan Russell Clark on The David Foster Wallace Reader.
It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”