Over at Catapult, Niina Pollari writes about translating Finnish literature in English. As she puts it, “If a thing you read gives you that sensation, it’s your responsibility to share the piece with someone.”
“A month ago, I touched a lock of Sylvia Plath’s hair.” At Tin House, Emma Komlos-Hrobsky examines the relationship between the late poet and her fans.
In a By Heart piece for The Atlantic, Harriet Lane writes about the “bleak precise nature” of Philip Larkin‘s poetry (what Stephen Akey called “The Poetry of Mental Unhealth” in a Millions review) and about the power inherent in writing fiction. “In my everyday life I have no control, really: who does? But on paper, I hold all the cards. Fiction provides you with a way to shape a world, to exert the kind of power and agency our real lives so often lack.”
Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea — as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers — has little to no basis in reality?
Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. “The reason that the Oracle works is that it’s always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it’s not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It’s a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has.”
Geoff Dyer, lately everybody’s favorite literary critic, reviews The Stranger’s Child, and tells us why Alan Hollinghurst, “the gay novelist, might also be the best straight novelist that Britain has to offer.” Hear, hear!
Sure, the various TV recaps, screencaps, and Paris Review fan fiction will be a help, but let’s be honest, how long will those last? You could get through all of it today, in a binge. What you need, my friend, is a good book to sate that Mad Men craving you’ll be having now that it’s off the air again. Well, here’s a list of 10 great ones. That should do it. Oh, yes.