“The notion that American literature might have an imperial bent—that it might be anything other than a string of lightly co-influential works of ‘imaginative power,’ and might itself reflect our national desire to dominate—is lost on its critics, both right and left.” Jonathan Sturgeon in The Baffler on American exceptionalism and “the imperial self” in fiction, with particular attention paid to the work of two other Jonathans, Franzen and Safran Foer.
The Believer posts a 2003 essay featuring Donald Barthelme’s reading list, which came secondhand to Kevin Moffett, a self-professed non-reader: “Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time, was to attack the books ‘in no particular order, just read them,’ which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do.” (via The Paris Review)
Spider-Man is one of our favorite superheroes, but he’s a terrible journalist. At The Atlantic, Daniel D. Snyder discusses how Peter Parker and Clark Kent are unethical reporters. “The media is, in theory at least, supposed to be honest. Putting on a costume, coming up with a fake name, and lying to everyone about what you really do are the opposite of that.”
“If I could paint or compose music, I would want to finally arrive at what I felt was beauty for me and for others. I would trust that if I could make something that was beautiful, it would also be true, the way Charlie Parker is true or a Shostakovich cello concerto is true, and I feel the same way about writing. I try to make something beautiful out of language.” Fogged Clarity interviews Stuart Dybek about the writing process and Ecstatic Cahoots, which we mentioned in our 2014 Book Preview.
“Over the past thirty-five years alone, language from Frost’s poem has appeared in nearly two thousand news stories worldwide, which yields a rate of more than once a week. In addition, ‘The Road Not Taken’ appears as a title, subtitle, or chapter heading in more than four hundred books by authors other than Robert Frost, on subjects ranging from political theory to the impending zombie apocalypse.” David Orr writes for The Paris Review about Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” one of the most misread poems of the English language.