Over at the Slate Book Review, Laura Miller gives Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series a fair shake. From Jesus to Reagan, O’Reilly and his cowriter Martin Dugard have killed off five famous historical “Great Men.” Despite claims of some dubious assertions having been made throughout the series, the books themselves have enjoyed tremendous commercial success.
Early on in her career, the poet Muriel Spark decided that Mary Shelley was criminally underrated as a writer. In bringing the Frankenstein author the fame she deserved, Spark wrote a biography, distanced Shelley from her famed poet husband and labeled her “the founder of science fiction.” (Related: our own Lydia Kiesling on Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.) (h/t Arts & Letters Daily)
“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave.” Jane Gardam on why she prefers writing short stories instead of novels in The Guardian. Pair with Lisa Peet’s essay on Gardam’s organically grown characters.
Riffing on R&B singer Ernie K-Doe’s one-time statement, Chris Rose writes in the Oxford American, “I’m almost positive that all music, at least all American music, comes from Louisiana.” The essay appears in this year’s OA Southern Music Issue, a reliably excellent source of tunes and writing. Indeed, as Dwight Garner put it in The New York Times, the CDs that accompany each annual issue “practically belong in the Smithsonian.”
Most of the time, when somebody insults a writer on Twitter, the insult disappears into the cyberspace ether. However, as with any rule, there are always exceptions, and one is when you trash Joyce Carol Oates and then thank her for inventing a breakfast food.
Mark McGurl author of the book that got everyone talking about MFA programs, The Program Era, mounts a spirited defense against Elif Batuman's much discussed review of the book. Among his ripostes: "One can be all for the deflation of liberal pieties without being a gleeful ignoramus about it, as though literary journalism needs its own Ann Coulter." Zing!
"Dear Marlon, I’m praying that you’ll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it….You play Dean and I’ll play Sal... I'll show you how Dean acts in real life, you couldnt possibly imagine it without seeing a good imitation..." From a letter from Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando. (via The Rumpus)
“Few countries that debuted in the 1700s have been as controversial or long running (it’s into its 237th season now) as America. It may not have the staying power of perennial favorites such as China or the credibility of indie darlings such as Finland, but America has proven that it can at least make some cultural impact. It’s not the best, but hey, they can’t all be Louie.”