“Ocean Vuong is that rare architect of accommodation, giving the most precarious situations or embarrassing of grievances of our culture a sound environment in which they can thrive. As he kisses and tucks the parents in their beds, he sets out from the wreckage of his past towards a hard-won horizon of blunder and wonderment.” Jeff Nguyen reviews Vuong’s newest poetry collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds.
Though everyone is tired of the online critics are too nice/ do critics even matter debate cropping up everywhere as of late, Daniel Mendelsohn’s “Critic’s Manifesto” may be the best thing to come out of the conversation yet: a clear formulation of what it means to be a critic and why that matters.
“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
Chloe N. Clark writes about magical reveals in fiction. As she explains it, “authors, like magicians, need to know when the best moment to pull back the curtain is.” Pair with this Millions essay on using light and a full palette of color to paint fiction.
Three Guys One Book takes an early look at The Late American Novel (co-edited by yours truly and featuring three Millions writers as well as a number of other literary luminaries) and sees it as a great introduction to a whole group of exciting writers. The book has been spotted on shelves in the wild, and we’ll be updating news about the book here. (Readers can also follow the book’s official Facebook page to keep up on events, reviews and other goodies.)