“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.
Also the name of a beautiful book of poetry by Jake Adam York, a group of starlings is known as a “murmuration.” One could make the case that the birds are America’s most literary. Each of the hundreds of millions of European starlings currently inhabiting North America is a descendant of the approximately 100 birds released in New York City’s Central Park in the early 1890s. They were released by a society intent on populating America with each of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.
At the Missouri Review blog, our own Tess Malone writes about the supposed death of the English major, which has lost a considerable amount of popularity in the last forty years in favor of “practical disciplines.” Among other things, she links to New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier’s Brandeis commencement speech, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.
“The call isn’t for a literature to, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has described, stop people from hitting us. […] But for a multiplicity of presence. A mingling, if not an acceptance, of a duality of presence. The right to be average. For the black guys in our literary fiction, if nowhere else, to be given the benefit of the doubt.” Over at the Ploughshares blog, Bryan Washington makes a case for inclusion in literary fiction.
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.