Recommended (Archival) Reading: “The language is too rich and poetic for my liking” and other gems from Amazon one-star reviews of classic novels, dredged up in 2014 by Electric Literature. Pair with the worst book review ever written.
Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”
Is it possible to share something with a “maybe don’t read this” tag attached? The literary internet has been buzzing today over the moral implications of stripping a writer (and, by association, a human) of their anonymity after this piece on Elena Ferrante was published in the NYRB. Read it or don’t read it, but definitely read her work.
Joel Rice has a new column up at McSweeney’s, in which he looks at “the literature of skateboarding.” All in all, this kind of reflective writing should pair nicely with Nick Courage’s fantastic Paris Review piece from last month. (Bonus: Rice’s column linked above also features a nice little bit of David Foster Wallace memorabilia.)
The world isn’t exactly wanting for character studies of Captain Ahab, but Chris Power manages to come up with a novel analysis of the character in this essay about the Moby-Dick antagonist. In Power’s telling, Ahab was valuable in part for what he told us about the 20th century — namely, he foreshadowed the dictators and despots to come. You could also read Hester Blum’s contribution to this essay about the best American novels.