“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.
Out this week: The Complete Journalism of James Agee; Straight Razor by Randall Mann; The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley; The Virgil Encyclopedia; and a new e-book edition of Incarnadine, the poetry collection by Mary Szybist that won this year’s National Book Award.
If you’re in New York this weekend, join Belladonna* and Kundiman for a celebration of what would have been the 60th birthday of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (a full life cycle event in the Chinese/Korean lunar calendar). Nine poets, including Cathy Park Hong, Myung Mi Kim, Sina Queyras, and Anne Waldman, will perform a staged reading from Dictee, Cha’s best known work. There will be birthday cake, projected images, scholarly contextualization, and other surprises. Saturday March 5, at the Bowery Poetry Club, 2pm.
“What I’ve found is that a lot of soldiers are surprisingly apolitical. Their reality is, ‘Today I’m going to leave the gate for twelve hours, and I’m going to make it back to the dining facility by sundown with the arms and legs of me and my buddies intact.’ So you say, ‘Well, what about the Project for the New American Century and the preexisting agenda blah blah blah?’ They go, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, but I have to get through today.’ So their reality is not a political reality as much as it’s, ‘If I’m driving by this piece of garbage, will it blow up?'” Revisit this old interview with Henry Rollins over at Guernica Magazine, which manages the nearly impossible: to be both level-headed and political.
At Bloom this week, check out the feature on novelist Jon Clinch, and the accompanying Q&A, where Clinch talks in-depth about his decision to self-publish his fourth novel after having his first two published by Random House. He says that his second novel, Kings of the Earth, “was set up for success: Oprah’s magazine put it at the top of their summer reading list, and it went on to be named one of the best novels of the year by theWashington Post. But the Oprah nod came six or eight weeks before publication date, and Random House either couldn’t or didn’t capitalize on it. By the time the book hit the shelves, it was already forgotten. I simply couldn’t bear the possibility that The Thief of Auschwitz might slip into the abyss.”
Barrelhouse editor Dave Housley wrote a “Commercial Fiction” piece for Hobart’s website about the “trippy magical realism” in Coors Light advertisements. You know what that means, right? People all over the world! Join hands. Start a love train. (Love train.)
Two full-length trailers for much-anticipated films dropped this week. First up is Pixar’s Brave, which will hit theaters this June. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, fans get to see Robert Pattinson star as Eric Parker in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis.