Wallace Shawn has written a new play, and it’s unsettling to watch. In it, a group of wealthy, middle-aged party hosts reveal their roles in a dystopian future, where political murders, random beatings and censorship are all commonplace. In an essay for The New York Review of Books, Francine Prose reviews the play in the context of Shawn’s other works.
“A coroner’s pronouncement of suicide (felo da se) resulted in forfeiture of the deceased’s goods and property to the state, often leaving any surviving relatives destitute. So the increasingly common verdict of temporary insanity (non compos mentis) may suggest a change in how people understood the act of self-destruction: no longer construed as a demonic temptation, it came instead to be viewed as a symptom of lunacy.” On the prevalence of suicide in eighteenth-century English literature.
Want to be as brilliant as Jonathan Swift? Try reading Latin for ten hours a day. As this New Statesman review of Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World makes clear, the satirist went through a backbreaking classics regimen at Kilkenny College in Ireland. (There’s also the fact that he wrote constant letters to a sickly female confidante.)
What happens when a writer inserts a ghost or monster into a story? At Berfrois, Alexander Stachniak argues that much of our current literature about the uncanny fails to help writers looking to answer this question. (Related: Steve Himmer on his monstrous Mary Poppins dreams.)