“The first sentence, itself described as a ‘decoy for attention’ in a 1930 story on the new art, is a lure within a lure, created in a new economy increasingly predicated on commercial diversification and instant appeal, in a book market that had never been so populated.” Electric Lit takes us through the history of the novel’s first sentence. Pair with our essay on the art of the opening sentence.
In a By Heart piece for The Atlantic, Harriet Lane writes about the "bleak precise nature" of Philip Larkin's poetry (what Stephen Akey called "The Poetry of Mental Unhealth" in a Millions review) and about the power inherent in writing fiction. "In my everyday life I have no control, really: who does? But on paper, I hold all the cards. Fiction provides you with a way to shape a world, to exert the kind of power and agency our real lives so often lack."
Depending on your perspective, this is either the best or the worst pairing of speaker to content there is: Benedict Cumberbatch reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis for the BBC. As always with Cumberbatch, the reading is a nice complement to our own Elizabeth Minkel on Sherlock.
Back in 2011, our founder C. Max Magee pointed to the fan art of Chris Ayers, who was inspired by DFW's Infinite Jest. Now, Ayers has a new series, drawn from Margaret Atwood's MaddAdam trilogy, that illustrates the corporate horrors of the trilogy's fictional dystopia. Pair with Vanessa Blakeslee on Atwood's In Other Worlds.
"Secret societies, camorras, mafias, et al., have no place in a detective story. To be sure, the murderer in a detective novel should be given a sporting chance; but it is going too far to grant him a secret society to fall back on. No high-class, self-respecting murderer would want such odds." -From the much-quoted 1928 essay by SS Van Dine, noted art critic and mystery writer, on the 20 rules for writing detective stories. (via Guardian)
On his podcast, David Naimon spoke with poet Morgan Parker about her new collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. It's a book "at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence," Naimon says. (Bonus: Parker's book was recently featured in Nick Ripatrazone's list of five poetry collections you should buy.)