“Maybe I [felt] a shift in responsibility when I had kids. I wanted the work I was doing, whatever it was, to be something that could be meaningful to them one day. That’s where the germ of the memoir came from. I thought that perhaps writing about my parents and where I came from would one day be helpful for my kids.” For Guernica, Christopher Kondrich interviews Tracy K. Smith about writing a memoir, the presence of David Bowie in her Life on Mars, and her reverence for the cosmic. Also check out Sophia Nguyen’s Millions review of Smith’s memoir, Ordinary Light.
"Young black fiction writers in the U.S. often face a strange obstacle as they try to figure out who they are — it’s called American literature. A high number of pre-civil-rights-era novels by white American writers are likely to include tossed-off racial slurs and/or stock black characters, some of which make racially conscious readers want to hurl the book across the room, even if the wooly-headed pickaninnies are only peeking around a doorjamb on one page out of 400. There are exceptions, but shockingly few. You always have to brace yourself — always." James Hannaham writes about growing up in Yonkers but finding himself in Southern literature.
Former Millions intern and current McNally Jackson bookmonger Rachel Hurn discusses “escaping from” San Diego with Eileen Myles. “The sixth time I saw Myles read, I told her I was stalking her,” Hurn writes. “I think she thought I was serious. Maybe I was.”
"For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It's just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation." Tor.com on why novellas are the form of the future.
What if the zodiac was based not on your birthday but on your favorite book in high school? If it were, and if your favorite book happened to be Lord of the Flies, we could guess that you are currently “researching masters programs and preparing for your fourth Burning Man.”
What do you do when McSweeney’s rejects your humor piece? You could, like most people, slink off and write something new, perhaps after a quick look at the site to get a better sense of what they’re looking for, or you could write a new humor piece about getting rejected by McSweeney’s. At The Nervous Breakdown, Rachel Pollan takes the latter route (with a cameo by the movie Swingers).
Along with the dreaded switch to Daylight Wastings Time, the first of the month brings new issues of Open Letters Monthly and N1BR. Between the two of them, you can find, among other things, reviews of Where the Wild Things Are, J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron, Bob Seger, and the Complete Bloggings of Caleb Crain.