“I think that every novelist of the kind of novels that I write has in them maybe one really good book, but the trouble with so many novelists is that they keep on writing novels even when they run out of ideas.” Forrest Gump author Winston Groom on why it’s taken him 20 years to write his new novel. Pair with our recent three-way interview with writers Emily Barton, Alexander Chee, and Whitney Terrell, all of whom needed a decade for their most recent books.
“But was I actually reading? I regarded myself as a reader, but were these really books?” In LitHub, James Tate Hill pens an essay about reading while visually impaired and the questions it raises in a print book obsessed world. Pair with: our own Bill Morris on hearing an actor narrate his novel’s audiobook.
“I say peel back the immediate surface layer and let’s see what’s actually underneath, if it’s possible to find that out. As a child, of course, I grew up looking under dead logs to see if there might be a newt. Most of the time there wasn’t a newt. Sometimes there was.” Margaret Atwood talks newts and skepticism in a new interview over at Hazlitt. Atwood’s newest, The Heart Goes Last, is out now.
If you’re a professor or mentor, it’s the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. “He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends.” Even if the government didn’t like Whitman’s work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the power of Whitman’s poetry.
“Should we understand a photographic document as being first and foremost an artifact of memory, a light-written ghost? Or is it more important to stress its status as a material thing created from pigment, silver, emulsion, paper, plastic, glass, silicon sensors, pulses of electricity? Or is the photograph primarily an opportunity to take or make, an arena for a special type of action?” On Polaroids, instantaneous photography, and memory over at The Nation.