“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.
A few weeks ago, I let you know about The Guardian’s new series spotlighting the best 100 nonfiction books of all time. Today, we have a curious addition to the list: Ted Hughes’ 1997 collection Birthday Letters. Here’s a bonus Millions review of Jonathan Bates’ controversial new biography of Hughes, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life.
“I rather like the idea of just using a few brushstrokes to create a whole world. And, of course, with Twitter you do that, you can tell a very big story in a few lines.” Books and Arts Daily talks with Alexander McCall Smith about the new art of Twitter fiction. Pair with the full text of David Mitchell‘s Twitter story “The Right Sort,” exclusively on The Millions.
In his 2015 Year in Reading, Garth Risk Hallberg told us about Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, a quasi-poem/novel/memoir which “you will quickly forget is weird as hell, because it is also beautiful as hell, moving as hell, and funny as hell.” Though the book isn’t slated for stateside release for another few months, there is a fantastic review over at the London Review of Books that’s well worth the read.
Amazon has given its entire front page over to a “letter” from CEO Jeff Bezos touting Dan Brown’s forthcoming gnostic thriller The Lost Symbol. It’s a mix of hyperbole and “thrilling” intrigue. My favorite excerpts: “This is one of the most anticipated publishing events of all time.” “The book remains so deeply under wraps that we’ve agreed to keep our stockpile under 24-hour guard in its own chain-link enclosure, with two locks requiring two separate people for entry.” Bezos goes on to promise that Amazon will deliver Kindle owners the book “wirelessly while [they] sleep.”
“Maurice Sendak drew his partner Eugene after he died, as he had drawn his family members when they were dying. The moment is one he was compelled to capture, pin down, understand, see. Where many— maybe most—people look away, he wanted to render. He was very wrapped up in the goodbye, the flight, the loss; it was almost Victorian, to be so deeply entranced with the moment of death, the instinct to preserve or document it. It’s also the artist’s impulse: to turn something terrible into art, to take something you are terrified of and heartbroken by and make it into something else. For the time it takes to draw what is in front of you, you are not helpless or a bystander or bereft: You are doing your job.” On Maurice Sendak and the art of death.