“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.
Our own Kevin Hartnett has an interesting theory as to how Charles Dickens came up with the idea for A Christmas Carol. At The Boston Globe, he looks at the evidence that Dickens got inspiration from the amateur writings of millworkers in Massachusetts.
We’ve written a fair bit about the By the Book series at the Times. You can read a selection of the best entries in a collection published by the paper. This week, the series featured another novel guest: Alan Gilbert, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Sample quote: “I don’t seek out books about music. I’ve read them over the years, but somehow, as a genre, it isn’t something I am specifically looking for.”
Recommended Reading: This piece on a digital afterlife — duplicating oneself via computer program — which is by turns troubling and oddly reassuring: “The human brain has about a hundred billion neurons. The connectional complexity is staggering. By some estimates, the human brain compares to the entire content of the internet. It’s only a matter of time, however, and not very much at that, before computer scientists can simulate a hundred billion neurons.”