Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal’s column for The New York Times debuted last week with her reflections on the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. As she puts it, “He is a spider of a writer: subtle and sly, patient, with invisible designs. He never proclaims — he never needs to. He envelops.” Pair with John Yargo’s Millions essay on Hrabal’s fiction.
“I used to run cross country in high school and it was like, I knew if I put in a certain kind of training, it was going to make me faster. If X, then Y. But with writing, it’s like, if X, if I do this thing that’s necessary, which is giving myself the space and time, then what? It’s sort of a question mark. You have no idea. You work so hard to offer yourself up to the space of the unknown.” Leslie Jamison (and Angela Flournoy and Katherine Towler) on being alone and setting aside the time to write.
In last week’s Brandeis commencement speech, Leon Wieseltier argued that never has there been a moment in American life when the humanities were respected less but needed more. “In recent years I have come to regard a commitment to the humanities as nothing less than an act of intellectual defiance, of cultural dissidence,” he said.
“I preach the radio. I do not preach thinking you must know what you are about. Faulkner had good drugs and a big radio. I recall having heard my own little radio at times. It is rare, yes, and it is, now, rarer. But you are young and have your juice, you’re still full of poop, which is the necessary requisite to tuning the radio. Got to be some poop out there, on the airwaves, or in there, in you, for you to tune it in. Cherish the poop you are full of, and work on excreting it with sound fundamentals. End of tantric wisdom.” The ever-entertaining Padgett Powell was interviewed over at LitHub for the release of his new book, Cries for Help, Various.
This month, a Brentwood School archivist unearthed a two-page poem entitled “A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining.” The kicker? It was written by a 17-year-old Douglas Adams, nine years before he published The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.