“I have come to realize how much I have, throughout my life, bought into the narrative of this alluring myth of personal responsibility and excellence. I realize how much I believe that all good things will come if I—if we—just work hard enough.” Year in Reading alum Roxane Gay writes for VQR Online about “The Price of Black Ambition.” Pair with our review of An Untamed State.
“But as anyone with the least knowledge of literature and writing—maybe art in general—will know, concealing what is shameful to you will never lead to anything of value,” Karl Ove Knausgaard said in an interview with Jesse Barron for The Paris Review. They discuss memory, personal crisis, artistic shame, and how he would burn My Struggle if there were less copies. Make sure to check out our review.
Edmund Wilson famously said of the works of H.P. Lovecraft that “the only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art.” In time, however, Lovecraft developed a substantial following, which raises the question of what attracted readers to his work. The answer? “The weird realism that runs through his writings undermines any belief system – religious or humanist – in which the human mind is the centre of the universe.” Related: Ben Dooley on the scariness of House of Leaves.
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, “Last Letter,” was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
Readers of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature most likely have a good idea of just how much the late Norman Mailer was a wellspring of jokes about writers. The pugilistic novelist, journalist and failed mayoral candidate did choose to title a collection of his work Advertisements for Myself, after all. Yet as Andrew O’Hagan notes in the LRB, it’s hard not to admire the cojones on a guy who once told a prominent editor he was “still too young and too arrogant to care to write the kind of high-grade horseshit you print in Harper’s Bazaar.”