Yesterday I told you about a ridiculously rare signed copy of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, a poem famously loaded with coldness and sterility and failed human intimacy. Later this month, some new letters will be published that reveal the depth of Eliot’s mental anguish over the breakdown of his first marriage with his wife, Vivien. Eliot has long been accused (maybe fairly) of treating Vivien with intolerable cruelty and attributing to her mental state, and these letters aim to complicate that narrative.
“I think it’s important that poets exist in societies because they exist in the realm of affect. Feeling is important to them. How people feel, what they feel, what breaks them, how trauma resonates through their lives… that’s a legitimate space in poetry. It’s a legitimate space for investigation.” Aaron Coleman interviews Citizen author Claudia Rankine about intimacy, her writing process, and her experience in an MFA program.
Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
Matthew Salesses talks about moral fiction and how to address prejudice in writing at Electric Lit. A piece of his essay: “The writing of fiction cannot treat marginalized characters as vessels, cannot let the plot play out the racism of under-enlightened protagonists. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion is that one cannot write without prejudice unless one understands that one has prejudice.” Pair with his recent essay at The Millions on plot and the inciting incident.
“I had invented a writing table out of a wheelbarrow in the coal bunker, just beyond a wall from where a dynamo ran. It made a deep, constant humming noise. There was no more work to do until about 4 a.m., when we would have to clean the fires and get up steam again.” The University of Mississippi power plant where William Faulkner wrote his self-styled “tour-de-force” As I Lay Dying is slated to be demolished. Here’s a nice, complementary piece on slowing down to read Faulkner.
As part of his research for his recent treatise on office life, Cubed, n + 1 editor Nikil Saval looked back on his own years in an open office. In an interview with Sara Scribner, he talks about his growing awareness that it wasn’t good for his health: “It was sociable in some good senses, but also mostly not a pleasant place to be.”