It’s a brand new week and Football Book Club is reading Ray Russell’s The Case Against Satan. For those of you scoring at home, that’s an exorcism novel written by a former executive editor of Playboy. Plus posts about Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and Carmen Giménez Smith’s Milk and Filth.
Parentheses aren’t just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita‘s “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.” Pair with: Vulture’s “The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature.”
“Eleven years later, the Atlantic Monthly editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made a similar request to an obscure, retiring poet named Emily Dickinson who had written a letter asking if her verses ‘breathed.’ Her response was much like Melville’s, if typically elliptical: ‘Could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?'” The age-old problem: how writers deal with publicity.
“What’s it like to write a novel in prison?” An interview with Daniel Genis addressing this and similar questions is online at The Airship. For more writing about and after prison, be sure to check out our own interview with Matthew Parker, author of Larceny in My Blood:A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education.
Recommended reading: The Awl takes a look at the “attempt to create a completely logical, absolutely universal language,” which goes about as well as you’d expect (read: not very).
Steve Almond treks deeper into familiar territory in the latest issue of The Baffler, wherein the essayist takes on “our lazy embrace of [Jon] Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert,” an undoubtedly strong “testament to our own impoverished comic standards.” Indeed, Almond notes, our satirists and comics today remain “careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too vigorously.”