“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso on envy and the purpose of writing. Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness.
Punctuation can be as important as the prose. At Vulture, Kathryn Schultz discusses the five best punctuation marks in literature. The list includes this delightful parenthetical from Lolita, “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three…”
Adorable pictures of baby hippos aside, it’s a common misconception that animals are “smiling” at you out of sincere happiness. Probably you’re projecting that onto them, writes Lee Dye in a piece from 2010. For more on the perils of assigning human qualities to other animal species, I highly recommend checking out Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy’s When Elephants Weep.
Haruki Murakami retired his running shoes to walk to Kobe and rediscover his hometown. “Strictly speaking, it’s not my home town any more. I feel a deep sense of loss at this fact, as if the axis of my memories is faintly, but audibly, creaking within me. It’s a physical sensation,” he writes in an essay for Granta.