Max Porter’s Death Is the Thing With Feathers is a bizarre, beautiful book. Over at The Literary Hub, he talks death, writing, and musical theater with Catherine Lacey. Porter’s book came highly recommended by Garth Risk Hallberg in his 2015 Year in Reading for The Millions.
“I wanted to offer my students an alternative to the purely confessional mode. I wanted them to write about themselves without falling into a paralyzingly portentous tone. I wanted more humor in their work, more complexity, more detail, more balance—more good writing. I wanted fewer italicized passages, less use of the breathless present tense. I wanted no more tears in the workshop, no more embarrassing scenes.” Emily Fox Gordon writes about trauma narratives in the classroom, the trouble with writing as therapy, and the key differences between confessing and confiding in an essay for The American Scholar.
Over at The Washington Post, Jeff Guo makes a case against periods. As he puts it, “When we get excited, the pauses between our sentences shrink. We speak in run-ons. […] A period feels too weighty.” Also check out this Millions piece on the benefits of excising quotation marks.
Out this week: The Immortal Evening by Stanley Plumly; Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura; Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll; Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite; Splitting an Order by the former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser; Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère; and The Heart Is Strange by John Berryman, which I wrote about as part of our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
The office novel, by nature, is a tricky construct, if only because your average white-collar job doesn’t offer much in the way of fiction-worthy moments. That said, recent books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris demonstrate how fruitful it can be to wring drama out of the rat race. In the latest issue of Dissent, Cubed author Nikil Saval delves into the contradictions of office fiction. FYI, Saval wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.