Jonathan Franzen knows a lot about birds. The novelist competed on Jeopardy’s “Power Players Week” alongside Chuck Todd and S.E. Cupp as part of a variation on the Celebrity Jeopardy theme. Franzen flubbed a few questions about Shakespeare which, ironically, served to help dispel some of the “old curmudgeon” reputation that has followed him for years. This piece from The Millions on the case for non-Ikea writing in the Age of Franzen might interest you.
"Macbeth has a twist that sets it apart from every other Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth murders his voice. Mad with fear that Banquo’s heirs will seize the throne, Macbeth has Banquo killed. After that, our antihero is on his own. There is no one left to verify what is real and what is not ... When Macbeth’s voice dies, everything else disappears, too. Macbeth is alone." This excerpt from Jillian Keenan's Sex With Shakespeare touches on everything from sexuality in Singapore to The O.C. fan-fiction.
"Yes, he cheated, he cracked up, he was irresponsible and even cruel in the way he marshaled his life for his art. Lowell nonetheless believed that women were his intellectual and artistic equals. He spent most of his life behaving accordingly even as he treated his wives and mistresses so terribly, in romantic terms, that it was almost operatic. That is the puzzle of Robert Lowell and women." It's not quite Valentine's Day yet, but this piece on the inarguably tumultuous relationship between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick is sure to make you feel something.
Lorin Stein has made the complete archive of The Paris Review interviews available for free online. The New York Times explains why this is such fantastic news: "The first issue of The Paris Review contained an interview with E.M. Forster. The new issue contains two, with Norman Rush...and the French controversialist Michel Houellebecq. In between there have been more than 300 others, from Ernest Hemingway (as indignant as a gored bull) to Jorge Louis Borges (funny and quizzical) and Hunter S. Thompson (surely on a variety of pharmaceuticals). Nearly all are worth a look-in."
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich put together a reading list to help children understand the global refugee experience, and Kaveh Akbar compiled a list of poems from the seven countries — Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria — impacted by President Donald Trump’s executive order. Meanwhile, Kieran Hebden (a.k.a. Four Tet) has been curating a Spotify playlist of music from those countries as well.