“Just because I’m a woman, don’t assume that I automatically empathize with a brooding 20-something Elizabeth-Bennett-type protagonist. (Trust me, I don’t.) This doesn’t mean I can’t design … a biography on Susan Sontag—or, for that matter, a spy novel, a political satire, or a memoir about a Japanese game show host set in outer space. I can do all of these things. Because it’s my job to design book covers.” Over at The Literary Hub, a cover designer wonders why she’s always offered a particular type of book.
Between the 40 Towns project organized by Jeff Sharlet’s Dartmouth students and the newly unveiled Vanishing Point project from Duncan Murrell’s students at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, it seems abundantly clear that college students are better at putting together web publications than 99% of established publishing outfits. Begin your tour with Christine Delp’s look at a blind man who makes his own martinis, and then check out other stories such as Ge Jin’s photographic essay on Chinese university students.
"Literature is the record we have of the conversation between those of us now alive on earth and everyone who’s come before and will come after, the cumulative repository of humanity’s knowledge, wonder, curiosity, passion, rage, grief and delight. It’s as useless as a spun-sugar snowflake and as practical as a Swiss Army knife." Dana Stevens and Adam Kirsch discuss whether literature should be considered useful.
Yesterday I told you about a ridiculously rare signed copy of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, a poem famously loaded with coldness and sterility and failed human intimacy. Later this month, some new letters will be published that reveal the depth of Eliot's mental anguish over the breakdown of his first marriage with his wife, Vivien. Eliot has long been accused (maybe fairly) of treating Vivien with intolerable cruelty and attributing to her mental state, and these letters aim to complicate that narrative.
In a piece for The Atlantic, Micah Mattix responds to the 50th Anniversary Edition of Lunch Poems with a reflection on the social media-esque quality of Frank O'Hara's poetry. "O'Hara's Lunch Poems—like Facebook posts or tweets—shares, saves, and re-creates the poet’s experience of the world. He addresses others in order to combat a sense of loneliness, sharing his gossipy, sometimes snarky take of modern life, his unfiltered enthusiasm, and his boredom in a direct, conversational tone. In short, Lunch Poems, while 50 years old, is a very 21st-century book."
"America has always been built—and continues to be built—by those the establishment keeps invisible." Public Books runs the sixth installment of its "An Engineer Reads a Novel" series, this time taking on Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad and John Henry Days. We also recently reviewed the former, which has been blessed by both Oprah Winfrey and President Obama.