“When I have an idea that will later, sadly, become a story or a poem, I have a sensation of receiving something. But I do not know if that “something” is given to me by something or someone or if it bursts out on its own.” An excerpt from Borges‘s conversations with the Argentinian poet and essayist Osvaldo Ferrari on writing, memory, and God is now available on The New York Review of Books blog.
In the 1880s, a group of rural Illinoisans formed a Christian sect that believed that a local woman, Dorinda Beekman, was the new Jesus Christ. When Mrs. Beekman died, a follower of hers claimed that her spirit lived inside him; as the new leader of the sect, he moved his followers into a barn and named it Heaven. At The Paris Review Daily, Dan Visel looks back on this odd chapter of history, as well as the novel it inspired. (Related: Eric Shonkwiler on the literature of the Midwest.)
Nonfiction writing might work wonders for history books, but the heart of the genre is still the essay. In a piece for The Morning News Martin Connelly discusses his youthful resolution to be an essayist, which he quickly forgot and then gradually remembered. There are also ironic license plates, convicts and a baby, just to jazz everything up a little bit.
We’ve been following the YA debate quite attentively – I wrote about it just last week – but Sarah Burnes‘s addition to the conversation, a blog post for The Paris Review, is one of the most eloquent I’ve read. In defense of reading YA fiction as a “grown-up” she writes, “The binary between children’s and adult fiction is a false one, based on a limited conception of the self. I have not ceased to be the person I was when I was an adolescent; in fact, to think so seems to me like a kind of dissociation from a crucial aspect of one’s self. And the critic should be concerned with what is good and what is bad, what is art and what is not—not with what’s ‘appropriate.'”
The world isn’t exactly wanting for character studies of Captain Ahab, but Chris Power manages to come up with a novel analysis of the character in this essay about the Moby-Dick antagonist. In Power’s telling, Ahab was valuable in part for what he told us about the 20th century — namely, he foreshadowed the dictators and despots to come. You could also read Hester Blum’s contribution to this essay about the best American novels.