Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. “The reason that the Oracle works is that it’s always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it’s not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It’s a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has.”
This week poet Mark Baumer was struck and killed by an SUV while walking barefoot across the country. Baumer, 33, began his cross-country walk to raise awareness about climate change, and was documenting the journey on his blog (as well as Instagram and YouTube). Florida, where he was killed, was recently ranked “the most dangerous place for pedestrians” in the United States.
You’ve probably taken one of those quizzes that lets you find out the nature of your spirit animal. If so, you’ll enjoy this novel take on the form, which lets you see which animal from a famous poem you are. (For the record, this writer got Marianne Moore’s immortal fish.)
“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.
“Many of the most powerful characters in our best-loved stories are orphaned, adopted, fostered, or found. At the same time, many of the most powerless citizens in our society are orphaned, adopted, or fostered children, and the marginalized adults that so many become. Why have so few of us even noticed this centuries-old disparity?” On literature’s most celebrated protagonists, from Oliver Twist to Anne of Green Gables.