“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.
More than ever, we need literature that gives Westerners a compelling entrée into—a way of better understanding—the lives of war-and-terrorism fraught regions. Over at Bloom, T.L. Khleif, recent recipient of a Rona Jaffe award, writes about Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon, a collection that immerses readers in the tribal areas of Pakistan prior to the rise of the Taliban. Among other notable honors, Ahmad joins the pantheon of late-blooming male authors who would not have ever published were it not for the stubborn encouragement of their wives.
Hopefully you’ve read Eryn Loeb’s Millions review of Goodbye to All That, a collection of essays by noted writers on the weird sorrow of leaving New York City. Contributors include Dani Shapiro, whom we interviewed back in October, Emma Straub, who wrote an essay for The Millions back in July, and Millions staff writer Emily St. John Mandel. At the LARB, Mason Currey says he dreaded reading the book out of fear that it would raise old anxieties, but then says that his hesitations “quickly evaporated” when he started reading.