Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur and Atticus have been polarizing forces in the literary world: on the one hand, they have millions of followers (and sell books in similar numbers); on the other, they tend to ignore existing poetic traditions, and pretty much everything else that print poets consider essential to the genre. So, is what they write really poetry? And according to whom? For the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog, poet and scholar Timothy Yu considers in greater depth the significance of these Instagram poets in the larger world(s) of contemporary poetry and writing, “It’s very easy to respond, as many have, by dismissing [Instagram poets] as ‘not real poets’ who pander to untutored readers. But isn’t there also a tinge of jealousy in our response? A sense that our work and the work of our peers should be recognized, and rewarded, by a larger audience? And an uncomfortable awareness of how small and closed our ‘actual’ poetry world can sometimes seem?”
This week, the Ransom Center at UT-Austin opened up its archives of the works of J.M. Coetzee. Because the Nobel Prize winner is an alumnus, he says it’s “a privilege to have graduated from being a teaching assistant at The University of Texas to being one of the authors whose papers are conserved here.” (Fun fact: his starting salary was $2,300 a year.)
Much linked elsewhere, Triple Canopy has published the first complete English translation of the Roberto Bolano’s 1999 speech accepting the Romulo Gallegos Prize.Keith Gessen of n+1 and All the Sad Young Literary Men has started a blog. People who like to make grand pronouncements about such things and/or snark about them are all aflutter. (via)Onward in snark, Tao Lin describes the “Levels of Greatness” for the American novelist. Spoiler alert: Philip Roth wins again. (via)Robert McCrum chronicles his ten years as The Observer’s literary editor in ten chapters, from “Chapter 1: New Blood: Zadie Smith” to “Chapter 10: The Kindle.”
Interested in writing a bestseller? You may want to check out Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers‘ newest book, The Bestseller Code. Or maybe not: “At times, it seems like Archer and Jockers are trying to retrofit a closed system. They found that best-sellers have lots of contractions—the better, they explain, to mimic contemporary speech—and exclamation points only rarely … They conclude that best-sellers consist of ‘shorter, cleaner sentences, without unneeded words,’ and that best-selling characters ‘make things happen.’ Active verbs predict best-sellers better than passive verbs. ‘Hesitation doesn’t keep pages turning,’ Archer and Jockers decide. After all that work, in other words, the algorithm ends up confirming the uncontested tenets of craft and style.”
In the latest issue of The Walrus, Casey Plett reads a number of books involving transgender people, critiquing several aspects of their depictions. Along with the essay, she provides a list of transgender novels everyone should read, including Nevada by Imogen Binnie and Wanting in Arabic by Trish Salah.
“Joseph K., that icon of single-lettered anonymity from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial,” writes Tom Engelhardt for Guernica, “would undoubtedly have felt right at home in [James] Clapper’s Washington.”