“In my adolescence people spoke of ‘café intellectuals,’ not with the respect due to a sect that transmits ideas within the cramped space of a table but with the contempt reserved for those who turn their backs on reality and take refuge in vain speculation.” Juan Villoro on the writing life in Mexico City’s cafés as part of the “Writing Life Around the World” series for Electric Literature.
Fun fact: Up until the late 1940s, science fiction novels really didn’t exist. Andrew Liptak writes about the rise of the paperback novel and the evolution of science fiction for Kirkus Reviews. Pair with Nichole Bernier‘s Millions essay on “The Point of the Paperback.”
In the nineties, when Jack Livings was teaching English in China, he was gathering material for The Dog, his short story collection that recently won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize. In an interview in the WSJ, he talks about his research process, Chinese idioms and Uighur-Han relations. You could also read Casey Walker’s syllabus for modern China. (h/t The Rumpus)
“A book critic working today must contend with a world in which more diverse voices are heard and the traditional gatekeepers have less power to enforce conformity.” LitHub interviewed Kate Tuttle, the president of the National Book Critics Circle, about literary criticism. Read our own Emily St. John Mandel on bad reviews.
After his death, fans of David Foster Wallace canonized him as a prophet, according him a degree of benevolence shared by almost no one in American letters. In New York Magazine, Christian Lorentzen argues that Wallace himself worried about this happening, and says he’d “probably be the last person to argue for his sainthood.” His essay pairs nicely with Jonathan Russell Clark on The David Foster Wallace Reader.