“I used to run cross country in high school and it was like, I knew if I put in a certain kind of training, it was going to make me faster. If X, then Y. But with writing, it’s like, if X, if I do this thing that’s necessary, which is giving myself the space and time, then what? It’s sort of a question mark. You have no idea. You work so hard to offer yourself up to the space of the unknown.” Leslie Jamison (and Angela Flournoy and Katherine Towler) on being alone and setting aside the time to write.
Take a vicarious trip to China via a special issue of Ninth Letter, a literary and arts journal published by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Including work by authors Madelaine Thien and Khaled Al Khamissi, the issue grew out of a residency sponsored by Sun Yat-sen University’s Center for English-language Creative Writing, the only such department of its kind in that country. Pair with this piece by Casey Walker about writing his novel Last Days in Shanghai, which is set in the boomtown of today’s new China.
Tim Parks writes for the NYRB about writers living abroad. As he puts it, “But what about those writers who move to another country and do not change language, who continue to write in their mother tongue many years after it has ceased to be the language of daily conversation? Do the words they use grow arid and stiff? Or is there an advantage in being away from what is perhaps only the flavor of the day at home, the expressions invented today and gone tomorrow? Then, beyond specifically linguistic concerns, what audience do you write toward if you are no longer regularly speaking to people who use your language?” Pair with Hannah Gersen’s Millions piece on reading the English translation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words.
Move over, “GIF.” (Or, more accurately: animate yourself away from us in an unending loop.) There’s a new Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Enter, “selfie,” a word of Australian origin that describes an ostensibly new “digital affair, [that’s actually] a novel iteration of an old form: the self-portrait.” (They even come with overarching themes of mortality.)
Recommended Reading: The New Republic on public participation and the Internet. “Did you know that as originally conceived the web was supposed to be writable? That is, you wouldn’t just read a web page, but you’d be able to edit it, too, from right inside your browser.” Our own Elizabeth Minkel writes about fanfiction and its influence on academics.