“Can we ever pinpoint a person’s true identity? … How can we point to something in the world with complete accuracy, without also being meaninglessly redundant? Harpo’s answer to ‘who are you?’ is a visual-gag version of the Buddha’s infuriatingly honest answer to the same question. When asked who he was, he would say, gesturing to himself: I am thathagatha (the one who is like this).” On Groucho Marx, nihilism, and the destruction of comedy over at Slate.
Graywolf Press – the publisher behind Citizen, The Empathy Exams, The Argonauts, and On Immunity: An Inoculation – has built a reputation as “a scrappy little press that harnessed and to some extent generated a revolution in nonfiction, turning the previously unprepossessing genre of the ‘lyric essay’ into a major cultural force.” Over at Vulture, Boris Kachka writes about the history of one of the nation’s leading independent literary publishers.
You may have read some portion of the infamous Watergate transcripts. What you probably haven’t read is quotes from the transcripts rearranged into poetry. At The Paris Review Daily, a few representative poems by Richard Nixon, including “I Can’t Recall,” “The Position” and “In the End.” You could also read our own Michael Bourne on Thomas Mallon’s book Watergate.
Out this week: Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud; One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis; Munich Airport by Greg Baxter; The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant; The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas; and The Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
"Emily Brontë teaches us that fiction is not defined by what an author has done, but what an author has felt. To write is often to observe, not necessarily to experience. It is possible to be strong, independent, and still be at home; there is nothing limiting or weak about the 'domestic' life. Daily life is not to be avoided—in fact, it can be our most fruitful source of truth." These and other helpful life lessons from the Brontë sisters over at The Daily Beast. How did the sisters even get their start as writers, anyway?
"Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the 'business of literature.' Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself." Twenty-first century publishing works in mysterious ways.