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.”
Another hip-hip for long-form journalism. George Packer‘s piece in the New Yorker on Richard Holbrooke and the Af-Pak War reminds one that some things — complicated geopolitical matters, for example — must be explored at length. Subscribers can read the full article in the digital edition here. Short of that, read Packer’s assessment of the McChrystal Report on his blog.
“I just didn’t see the textual evidence for it. If Mark Twain wanted to make somebody black, he would make them black. He was not shy about dealing with matters of race.” For The New Yorker, Mythili G. Rao on the complicated backstory to the upcoming publication of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, a “new” children’s book by Mark Twain. See also: our consideration of Twain’s self-deprecating travelogue The Innocents Abroad.
Although Jon Fosse is not well known in America, his work is revered in his native Norway, where he stands on a par with his onetime student and American celebrity, Karl Ove Knausgaard. In a piece for The Paris Review Daily, Damion Searls argues for Fosse’s relevance, claiming that Fosse is the only writer whose work made him weep as he translated it. You could also read Jonathan Callahan on Knausgaard’s My Struggle.
“I think that every novelist of the kind of novels that I write has in them maybe one really good book, but the trouble with so many novelists is that they keep on writing novels even when they run out of ideas.” Forrest Gump author Winston Groom on why it’s taken him 20 years to write his new novel. Pair with our recent three-way interview with writers Emily Barton, Alexander Chee, and Whitney Terrell, all of whom needed a decade for their most recent books.