Over at Electric Literature, Sara Borjas, author of Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, reflects on writing about love and identity and building a Latinx community in a candid interview with Leticia Urieta. “As I wrote, and loved, I realized that there was such a power imbalance and imbalance in respect, not just between couples, but between friends and family. In Chicanx families, we value labor. If you are not putting in labor, you are not worthy of respect. I had to look at those relationships and what ideas they were rooted in so that I didn’t perform that way.”
Our own Emily Mandel may have been onto something with her “catastrophic” summer reading list; dystopia seems to be all the rage this summer. The WSJ sets Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death in “a dystopian United States that is halfway between Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano and Woody Allen’s Sleeper.” The SF Chron calls Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story “literature’s first dystopian epistolary romantic satire.” And later this year, as we noted this month, will be Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez, which focuses on a cultish community in the dystopian aftermath of a flu pandemic.
Tim Parks investigates the idea of “writing to death” in the cases of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens and William Faulkner. “So many of the writers I have looked at seem permanently torn between irreconcilable positions,” Parks writes. “Eventually, the dilemma driving the work either leads to death, or is neutralized in a way that prolongs life but dulls the writing” (Bonus: Our own Mark O’Connell just reviewed Parks’s latest book, Italian Ways.)
If you’re looking for an occasionally evil but mostly hysterical month-long diversion, I recommend following HTMLGiant‘s “Tournament of Bookshit“. So far one highlight has been: “excessively long list of credits including pushcart nominations in your bio vs. the guy who goes 20 minutes over the suggested reading time“
“Raymond Chandler did not invent the private eye — Dashiell Hammett and a few others got there first. But his vision is the one that caught the public eye and stuck most indelibly in the imagination, like — in one of his aromatic metaphors — ‘a tarantula on a slice of angel food.’” On a new biography of the man behind Phillip Marlowe.
Recommended reading: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the new modesty of literary criticism and the complicated relationship between texts, critics, and politics. For more on the balance between art and politics, look no further than Jonathan Clarke‘s Millions essay, “Alive with Disagreement and Dissent.”