March is Women’s History Month, making it a good time to look back on the authors who have shaped us. For the New York Times, Min Jin Lee recounts the paradigm-shifting experience of reading bell hooks as a sophomore at Yale. “[It] was as if someone had opened the door, the windows, and raised the roof in my mind,” Lee writes. “I am neither white nor black, but through her theories, I was able to understand that my body contained historical multitudes and any analysis without such a measured consideration was limited and deeply flawed.”
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, “Last Letter,” was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
Daniel Woodrell was so busy dodging bill collectors that he almost missed a telegram from an agent interested in his first novel, Under the Bright Lights. He discusses his writing career, the film adaptation of Winter’s Bone, and how he’s used the same coffee mug since 1974 for The Daily Beast’s “How I Write” series.
“In creative writing, I teach that characters arise out of our need for them. By now, the person I created in New York was the only one I wanted to be. …Eight years after reaching the end of myself, I was on borrowed time. Whether it was in a plane or a coffin, I knew I had to get out of Jamaica.” Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women, which once gave me so much trouble, and whose novel A Brief History of Seven Killings the Book Report covered here, writes for the New York Times Magazine about leaving Jamaica to find himself in Minnesota.