“We are not buried in history, but surrounded by it. You can’t avoid our behavior being shaped by it, to a considerable degree. We have this fantasy that we are free of history. This allows us not to see the circumstances, the historical circumstances of other people.” The Rumpus interviews Russell Banks about his new book Voyager: Travel Writings.
“Who was Bret Easton Ellis describing when he tweeted: ‘The best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn’t able to achieve’?” The Guardian has a delicious quiz of literary putdowns. And speaking of fighting, let’s talk about books about violence.
Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea — as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers — has little to no basis in reality?
The Virginia Quarterly Review‘s Fall 2011 issue, “The Soviet Ghost“, is now available online. Not to be missed is Ed Ou’s heartbreaking essay and slideshow on how the Soviet government performed nuclear weapons tests on innocent Kazakh citizens. Dimiter Kenarov’s essay on Belarusian tractors is simultaneously a personal journey, an impressive work of history, and a good ol’ fashioned KGB crime story.