In writing her novel The Last Neanderthal, which published this week, Millions staffer Claire Cameron relied on Jane Smiley’s motto for writing historical fiction: “you are there.” Bonus: Don’t miss our interview with Cameron, in which she describes her many “life-long obsessions.”
In 1970, a journalist named Joseph Epstein wrote an essay for Harper’s that came to a frightening conclusion: that Epstein would, if possible, “wish homosexuality off the face of the Earth.” The incendiary language inspired Merle Miller, a former editor at the magazine, to publish a call-to-arms, “What It Means to Be a Homosexual,” that became the basis of the book On Being Different. Emily Greenhouse puts the essay in context at Page-Turner.
You may have read some portion of the infamous Watergate transcripts. What you probably haven’t read is quotes from the transcripts rearranged into poetry. At The Paris Review Daily, a few representative poems by Richard Nixon, including “I Can’t Recall,” “The Position” and “In the End.” You could also read our own Michael Bourne on Thomas Mallon’s book Watergate.
Over at Threepenny Review, Jess Row expounds on “blandness” in the work of Haruki Murakami, and particularly in his 2.8 lb. tome 1Q84—a book tabbed by Charles Baxter in last year’s Year in Reading as the best he’d read all year. Row contemplates the way Murakami’s characters and sentences “almost never lose this placid, observant neutrality,” or “continuous monotone.”
The Atlantic interviews Erin Gruwell, a teacher whose methods for teaching her students about prejudice became the basis of a book (and subsequent movie) called The Freedom Writers. Named after a group of bus-riding civil rights activists, the students in her classes wrote lengthy journal entries — many of them relating to their own personal traumas — in order to compare them with diaries by historical figures. Writing journals, Gruwell says, helped her students learn to like schoolwork.
Out this week: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt; The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant; Cementville by Paulette Livers; Damage Control by Amber Dermont; Blood Will Out by Up in the Air author Walter Kirn; Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler; and The Haunted Life, a new collection of early writing by Jack Kerouac.