“My ear for the diction and rhythms of poetry was trained by — in chronological order — Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T.S. Eliot.” Author Denis Johnson has died at age 67, reports The Washington Post. Our own Sonya Chung recommended Johnson’s celebrated short story collection Jesus’ Son to a friend some years back, saying “I know it will knock him out. It does (of course).”
“I would argue that decent books coverage in a daily newspaper — especially when it’s presented in such a way that readers are likely to stumble over it and discover titles they might not otherwise have heard of — is more supportive of writers in the long run than a scholarship program.” At Salon, Laura Miller explores literary culture and the downsides of the MFA, which include teaching high school.
Saul Bellow met Jack Ludwig at Bard College in the fifties. The two became friends, and founded a magazine together, called The Noble Savage. Then, not long after the magazine began running, Ludwig started an affair with Bellow’s wife. Here’s the letter Bellow sent him when he found out. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel on Bellow’s novel The Bellarosa Connection.
“When the French would go to serve, they often said, Tenez!, the French word for ‘take it,’ meaning ‘coming at you, heads up.’ We preserve this custom of warning the opponent in our less lyrical way by stating the score just before we toss up the ball. It was the Italians who, having overheard the French make these sounds, began calling the game ‘ten-ez’ by association. A lovely detail in that it suggests a scene, a Florentine ear at the fence or entryway, listening.” Whether it’s David Foster Wallace or John Jeremiah Sullivan writing about tennis, I’m reading it. Another three-namer, Jonathan Russell Clark, reviewed The David Foster Wallace Reader for The Millions.
“Like all great literature, [David Foster Wallace’s] books do many things at once. Litchat, however, is singleminded.” Laura Miller discusses “the perils of litchat” at The New Yorker and how it has affected the legacy of David Foster Wallace. For less litchat, read our review of The David Foster Wallace Reader.
New this week: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; American Innovations by Rivka Galchen; The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham; The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry; An Untamed State by Rumpus editor and Year in Reading alum Roxane Gay; Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo; The Painter by Peter Heller; and Friday Was the Bomb by Millions contributor Nathan Deuel.