Some corners of the literary world were confused last week when news hit about the passing of Beatles producer George Martin, forcing Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin to make this statement: “While it is strangely moving to realize that so many people around the world care so deeply about my life and death, I have to go with Mark Twain and insist that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. It was Sir George Martin, of Beatles fame, who has passed away. Not me.”
When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
As Kevin Jackson notes in Prospect Magazine, Edgar Allan Poe differs from many of his contemporary American authors in that he’s often treated with “a hint of condescension and a splash of pity somewhere in the mix” by modern English students. And yet his influence perseveres. He is, after all, the only author with an NFL namesake. And he’s apparently huge in France. So what gives?
Yesterday, our own Elizabeth Minkel pondered if Twitter fiction could be real art. She cited Teju Cole, a literary Twitter master, but what does he have to say about how Twitter affects his writing? “My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved,” he told The New York Times.
Growing up in California, our own Michael Bourne didn’t have a full sense of his own privilege until 1981, when a chance encounter with a group of teenagers dressed up as skeletons woke him up to the realities of segregation in America. In a long essay for Orange Coast Review, he goes over the meaning of that incident, complete with meditations on Marin County, his abandoned early novel and his family’s history in Danville, Virginia. Pair with: Michael’s piece for The Millions on Tess Taylor’s The Forage House.
Paris Review editor Lorin Stein was interviewed for Days of Yore. Topics include: the “perverse power” of editing your parents’ work; his rise through the ranks of NYC publishing; and the new story collection, Object Lessons. Elsewhere you can check out his “five favorite short story collections.” And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out our own Bill Morris’s interview with Paris Review deputy editor Sadie Stein (no relation) about the Object Lessons collection as well.
“His life’s work, and his stunning prose, teaches us to better understand political influence, American democracy, and the true power of biography.” The National Book Foundation just announced Robert Caro as this year’s recipient of the National Book Awards lifetime achievement medal. Definitely pair with this piece by our own Michael Bourne on Caro’s epic literary ambitions.
” I love the shape of words, I love the comet-tail histories of words. I love the roll and crunch of syllables in my mouth.” In Electric Literature, Laura van den Berg interviews R.O. Kwon about religious fanaticism, “unknowing,” and her upcoming debut novel, The Incendiaries. Pair with: Kwon’s 2017 Year in Reading.