“The concept that being American means, by definition, having an ideal that you’ve failed to live up to—that’s another crucial thing I learned from [James Alan] McPherson. It is not a rejection of America for Michelle Obama to note that her daughters are growing up in a house built by slaves. Or a rejection of a white writer to point out that Fitzgerald was a racist. Instead, it is American to admit those facts and to find in that admission a way forward.” On American values, Barack Obama, and the legacy of James Alan McPherson over at The Literary Hub.
Over at Guernica, Liza St. James interviews Adam Z. Levy and Ashley Nelson Levy, the founders of the independent press Transit Books. As they put it, “We were noticing this kind of partition between two types of readerships: those who read domestic literature and those who read translation. [...] We were interested in the separation of those literary spheres, and began to wonder how to bridge the gap between them.”
James Joyce inspires a lot of English papers but not songs. Yet musician Casey Black based his song "Happiness" off of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. With lyrics like, "So I walk the Dublin streets like they were passageways through my soul," we think Joyce would approve.
When John Steinbeck wasn't busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. "The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages," he wrote to an agent.