“In the years before my book came out, I was writing frantically. I remember a week when I was working late at my job, late enough that the buses had stopped running and I had to take a cab home, and I still wrote into the night, trying to finish an essay I had promised an editor. Now I see that I was trying to race against time. I had believed, however irrationally, that there would be a moment beyond which my voice would be taken away from me and I would no longer be able to write.” On writing and tenacity.
The last meal is a curious staple of modern executions, not least because it involves, in the words of one death-row inmate, “putting gas in a car that don’t have no motor.” At Lapham’s Quarterly, an essay on the ritual’s history, one that includes mention of famous last meals like terminally ill French President Francois Mitterrand’s final dinner of “Marennes oysters, foie gras, and two ortolan songbirds.”
“Aspiring journalists tend to worship at the altar of Joan Didion,” writes Heather Havrilesky (who some of you may know as Polly) in the latest issue of Bookforum. The fact that so many writers look up to Didion as an example necessitates that the lit world find at least one offbeat alternative. In Havrilesky’s eyes, that alternative is obvious: the late Nora Ephron was the anti-Didion, she argues.
“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.
Alright, time to fess up – who keeps buying all these Mein Kampfs? This piece from The Daily Beast takes a look at Hitler’s 800-page tome and questions why people continue to buy it despite the fact that “it might be dull as one of those many lunchtime monologues that bored Frau Goebbels cross-eyed.”