“A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.” Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it’s because he has “a bit of the opposition in him.” This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.
The Millions is excited to be a founding member of a new ad venture called The Staff Recommends, John Warner and Andrew Womack, both of whom are associated with The Morning News and its wonderful Tournament of Books are behind the effort. The Staff Recommends is unique in that it only features books that “pass muster” with Warner, the venture’s editor and ombudsman. The first selection can be seen at the end of our “Recent Articles” section on The Millions front page and also in the sidebar on article pages. Enjoy!
“Reaching the end of a Babstock poem, I often felt (and still often feel) stunned into a kind of numinous awe.” Stewart Cole for Partisan on Ken Babstock and the state of Canadian poetry. Continue with confidence on your quest through the Canadian canon with the help of this guide by our very own Michael Bourne.
If you didn’t like Elif Batuman‘s gut-punch to MFA writing (“Get A Real Degree”) in this issue of the London Review of Books, might I suggest Jenny Diski’s cudgeling of self-help lit in the LRB’s Diary essay?
You should check out George Saunders’s “Liner Notes” piece about “2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present & Future,” which is set to accompany a forthcoming musical-comedy album from Patton Oswalt, Aubrey Plaza, Ira Glass, and Yo La Tengo, among others. If that hasn’t sold you, consider the fact that Saunders’s piece contains this line: “Truth be told, there were a number of regrettable omissions. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s piece ‘Bomber’ had to be left off the album. (‘Driver of this plane, this / B-52 on the way to Nagasaki / Stuff your ears with cotton and / Close those eyes / Me and my man are about to do it all over this / Here bomb’).”
A year and a half later, Jessie Gaynor returns to The Paris Review to follow up her much-appreciated “Drunk Texts From Famous Authors” series. (Part one is here.) On tap this time: T.S. Eliot, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Samuel Beckett, Roald Dahl, Jorge Luis Borges, Guillaume Apollinaire, William Blake, and a Flarf poet.
There’s an old story that states that Marcel Proust met James Joyce for five unremarkable minutes at a dinner party. Artistically significant though it may have been, it had less geopolitical significance than another famous meeting a hundred years earlier, in which Napoleon went out of his way to pay a visit to Goethe. As a new biography of the French emperor details, Napoleon couldn’t understand why Goethe admired Shakespeare.