In his 2015 Year in Reading, Garth Risk Hallberg told us about Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, a quasi-poem/novel/memoir which “you will quickly forget is weird as hell, because it is also beautiful as hell, moving as hell, and funny as hell.” Though the book isn’t slated for stateside release for another few months, there is a fantastic review over at the London Review of Books that’s well worth the read.
“Why do we love our writing teachers so much? I think it’s because they come along when we need them most, when we are young and vulnerable and are tentatively approaching this craft that our culture doesn’t have much respect for, but which we are beginning to love. They have so much power. They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead do something almost holy, which we never forget: they take us seriously.” George Saunders offers a timeline of his writing education over at The New Yorker.
"I’ve always been interested in the internal shape-changes of the poem. In my student days, it was common to assume that the poem makes a statement — that it’s protesting war, or is grieving a death. My teachers, on the whole, didn’t see a poem as an evolving thing that might be saying something completely new at the end because it had changed its mind from whatever it had proposed at the beginning." An interview with Harvard's Helen Vendler about the structure of poetry, the benefits of studying science and mathematics, and the "miraculous" voices of Shakespeare and Keats.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist's chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
The Big Short and Liar’s Poker author Michael Lewis investigates the case of Sergey Aleynikov, a computer programmer accused by Goldman Sachs of “violating both the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 and the National Stolen Property Act.” Is this the case of an international spy bent on stealing company secrets, or is this the case of an overzealous company taking revenge on an ex-employee, and using an ill-prepared government agency to do so?
"The voices you hear when you sit down to write lead you to believe that you’re a character in the novel you’re writing even though metafiction hasn’t been invented yet." If this applies to you, you might be in a Muriel Spark novel according to Maud Newton's article at The Toast. We aren't surprised that Newton wrote this because Spark made her 2010 Year in Reading post.