Published this week by Straylight, the novella The Old Home Place by longtime Millions staffer Michael Bourne offers an intimate look at an ambitious young couple, in love and in trouble, as they grapple with America’s complex racial history. Download the full novella for free or visit Straylight and click on the shop tab.
There’s an oxymoron for you: “Rich Poet.” But the new fortunes of Emirati poet Saif Al Mansouri prove that with talent, grit, and a live television audience, truly anything is possible. The UAE show “Millionaire’s Poet,” in its sixth season, awarded $1.3 million (the Nobel Prize. for comparison, is $1.2 million) to winner Al Mansouri, and perhaps something even more valuable – a global audience of up to 70 million, actually tuning in.
Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
“[YOU can only speak to what you experienced outside several seconds after your coworker entered the building, but several seconds before YOU yourself reached your cubicle. YOU do not know if it is in fact still raining out. YOU say nothing and are forever plagued by the unknowable nature of the immediate present.]” These short existentialist plays starring you and your coworkers are sure to stir up some feelings of gloom, doom, and familiarity.
I’d heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: “The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally–he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now–but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times (‘arrogant,’ ‘high-handed,’ ‘ethically compromised’) with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.”