Recommended Reading: On lyric essays and trauma at Ploughshares. “I didn’t start writing lyric essays until I found out I had cancer. The melanoma buried in my right cheek was at first missed, and then misdiagnosed in its severity. Clark’s stage IV, they told me. Likely in my lymph nodes, but they wouldn’t know until my third surgery, the excision and biopsy.”
Have you heard the one about the Holocaust historian who loves Donald Trump? No, really. Eric Metaxas, most well-known for his biography of the theologian/anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has claimed that Trump’s rhetoric is all just “schtick,” and that the man himself is “culturally Jewish.”
“Grief doesn’t only disturb life; it disturbs the way we talk about life. As myriad aspects of our existence are questioned and reexamined in the wake of a death, so too is our relationship with the language we rely on for our grief’s expression.” This track-by-track take on Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell from The Rumpus is really just a magnificent, emotive piece on elegy.
Out this week: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid; South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion; All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg; Ill Will by Dan Chaon; The Accusation by Bandi; The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge; and American Berserk by our own Bill Morris. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“For about 15 years, every time I had a really good dance party that went late, with people lolling around drunk and exhausted, at about 2 a.m., I would hand out paper and ask everyone to draw a vomiting cat. . . . I ended up with an incredibly thick file of drawings, some by people who went on to be published cartoonists and writers.” The New York Times reports that (Year in Reading alum) Jonathan Lethem has sold his papers to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, a trove that includes comic books, manuscript drafts, notes, letters, and yes, drawings of vomiting cats. You can read our review of Lethem’s Dissident Gardens, which may or may not feature hairballs in a crucial plot point, here.
J.K Rowling is a vandal! The billionaire and author of the Harry Potter series left her mark in an Edinburgh hotel room when she scribbled some graffiti on the back of a decorative bust back in 2007. “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room on 11 Jan 2007,” it reads. Oh, I suppose that’s okay.
“[E]ach video is a portrait of the artist as a beginner—and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.” The Paris Review has a new video series called “My First Time,” in which big-name authors talk about getting their start. Helen DeWitt, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sheila Heti, a chain-smoking Karl Ove Knausgaard – what more could anyone want? More origin stories, that’s what! Six writers – Colum McCann, Alexander Chee, Jami Attenberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Justin Taylor, and Anthony Marra – look back on their first books for us.
“Mr. Fogg assured us he would touch down at our place at precisely 8:45 in the evening. Imagine our delight when he not only arrived with all the punctuality befitting an Englishman, but also quite literally touched down! In a hot air balloon!” Introducing literary couchsurfing.