Over at Public Books, Jared Gardner explores the theme of pain and illness at the heart of many graphic narratives. As he explains it, “Illness, mental and physical, is arguably comics’ invisible master theme, deeply woven into their genome and shaping the stories they tell, from the earliest newspaper strips (chronic allergies in Winsor McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze) through the rise of superhero comics (from Batman’s PTSD in 1939 through the Fantastic Four’s radiation poisoning in 1961).” Pair with Paul Morton’s Millions piece on the history of Marvel Comics.
The January issue of Asymptote is out, featuring an excellent interview with Year in Reading alumnus Junot Díaz about language acquisition and diasporic identity. As he puts it, “I live a life where both English and Spanish are in italics in my brain. It costs me no extra effort; it doesn’t feel unusual; it doesn’t feel like an infirmity, but it does strike me every now and then that there are people who don’t pick over their language the way I do, who aren’t so self-conscious of what they’re saying, who have a natural tongue." Pair with Thea Lim’s Millions essay on race and gender in Díaz’s books.
For those of you who won’t rest until you find out the truth about how Chris McCandless died, know that neither will Jon Krakauer. His recent discoveries appear in the afterword to a new edition of Into the Wild, released in 2015. Also check out this Millions essay on extreme survival books.
The Iowa Writers' Workshop turns 75 this year. To celebrate, a number of alumni are writing essays on their experiences for various blogs (as well as ours!) as part of The 75th Project. At The Los Angeles Review of Books, Kevin Brockmeier has comprised "A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1995-1997." Additionally, Joyelle McSweeney has a piece on n+1's website entitled "Iowa Occult: a Mütter Pedagogy; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Vomit Art."
“Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism—T. S. Eliot is of this type.” President Obama wrote these words as a twenty-two-year-old student, but Edward Mendelson argues that Obama’s words as a literary critic reveal his tendencies as a politician. Check out our own Michael Bourne’s review of Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss, where Obama's letter was originally published.