“Writing about film applies pressure to how ekphrastic writing can be possible, let alone evocative–and further, highlights questions that pertain to all kinds of writing, from honing poetic imagery to composing entire fictive worlds: how can writing engage or transform the fidelity of its subject(s)? How do you write about something so simultaneously ephemeral and fabricated, and yet intuitively, enduringly ‘real’?” For Ploughshares, Veronica Fitzpatrick on writing about film. Pair with this Millions piece on literary magazines in film and TV.
Avril Haines, the new deputy director of the CIA, had an interesting career before landing in the Langley. According to a Washington Post report, Haines used to own an independent bookstore in Baltimore, where she “welcomed patrons for the occasional readings of high-toned erotica over chicken tostadas.”
“I think what I would really most like to write about is palm trees and bougainvillea and hummingbirds. I would like to go into the desert and write about salamanders and the Grand Canyon, but history keeps rupturing my experience because politics are everywhere.” National Book Award winner Robin Coste Lewis on overcoming brain damage and becoming a poet. Pair with Andrew Kay’s Millions essay on the power of poetry.
It doesn't get much better than James Wood on Joy Williams: "Nothing is stranger (and funnier) in Williams’s work than her details. Like her forms, they only resemble conventional realist details, an atmosphere perhaps encouraged by her flat, functional sentences (“They danced. Sam had quite a bit to drink”). The details are frequently surreal, magical, hallucinogenic, delivered in a cool, dispassionate, routine manner."
Patti Smith’s M Train was released this Tuesday. Geoffrey O’Brien reviews her memoir at The New York Review of Books: “Perhaps M Train represents the attempt by someone whose career is as public as can be imagined to stake out a zone of inviolable privacy, albeit through the public act of writing a book meant for publication.” Need more music? Check out our Torch Ballads and Jukebox Music column.
"Updike stopped cartooning while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. This is a factually true statement, but it ignores a larger reality. While Updike might have ceased cartooning, the visual language of comics was never far from his mind. Cartooning was an inextricable strand in his creative DNA." Jeet Heer writes about John Updike, cartooning, fandom and "bedesque" prose for The Paris Review. Pair with James Santel's Millions essay on "The Curious Paradox of John Updike."
"If you can get some brilliant artists to make a musical about your childhood, I highly recommend it. It's very cathartic." Recent MacArthur fellow Alison Bechdel's hugely successful graphic memoir, Fun Home, has been adapted into a Broadway musical, and now she's written a coda to the book that looks at what the musical has meant to her and what it could have meant to her parents. Pair with our interview with Bechdel here.