For The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt examines how the work of poet Seamus Heaney became synonymous with happiness and joy—and how it came to be quoted by presidents and casual readers alike. “It is this later, happier Heaney who comes into his own in his family’s idiosyncratic selection. Almost buoyant, occasionally repetitive, surprised by himself at least as often as he surprised readers, this Heaney remained self-conscious, revisiting and answering earlier verse. ‘The Conway Stewart’ is a fancy pen, the first the poet owned, and the sharp-lined, short-lined poem of that name returns to a three-way comparison in ‘Digging’ (the first poem in his first book), between spade and pen and gun.”
“I am worried about the implications of throwing the label ‘women’s pain’ around individual experiences of suffering, and I am even more uncomfortable with women who feel free to speak for all women. I worry about making pain a ticket to gain entry into the women’s club. And I worry that the assumption of vulnerability threatens to invigorate just the sexist evils it aims to combat by demanding that men serve as shields against it.” In an essay for the Boston Review, Jessa Crispin shares her concerns about the “wounded women” trend in literature right now, citing Leslie Jamison‘s The Empathy Exams and Roxane Gay‘s Bad Feminist as well the Twitter campaign #yesallwomen as particular examples. Pair with Ryan Teitman‘s Millions review of The Empathy Exams.
From Nebuchadnezzar to Hippocrates to the Victorian asylum: The Paris Review takes a look at mental illness and its treatments across the centuries.
Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (as seen in our Book Preview; and excerpted here) is due to hit shelves early September, and everybody seems pretty excited about it. How excited? Well, the book will come with an “enhanced e-book” replete with multimedia features, and the publishers have also decided to create a pop-up version of Brokeland Records, one of the novel’s main settings.
Tuesday New Release Day! New E.L. Doctorow, new Lorrie Moore, new Nick Cave, new (guest contributor) Michelle Huneven. And new in paperback 2666. Update: There’s also a new six-word memoir collection “by Teens Famous and Obscure” edited by Friend of The Millions Rachel Fershleiser
It’s not easy being a seagull. Over at the London Review of Books, Mary Wellesley takes a sympathetic look at how the much-maligned bird has been treated throughout the history of literature. Afterwards, let this essay from The Millions by Kristen Scharold on the joys of birdwatching lift your spirits a bit.
“Eleven years later, the Atlantic Monthly editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made a similar request to an obscure, retiring poet named Emily Dickinson who had written a letter asking if her verses ‘breathed.’ Her response was much like Melville’s, if typically elliptical: ‘Could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?'” The age-old problem: how writers deal with publicity.