Pandemic literature has been around for centuries, with one of the most popular being Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. At Electric Literature, Elyse Martin examines how this collection of “medieval Italian sex stories” shows that storytelling is integral to our survival. “The rigid structure of the work—ten characters tell ten stories for ten days—seems at odds both with the chaotic setting of the plague and with the content of the tales,” Martin writes, “where characters tumble from fortune to misfortune to fortune again, with each spin of Fortune’s wheel. But this strict structure is intentional. Just as Boccaccio most likely wrote these tales as a way to understand and also escape the plague, so do his ten storytellers embrace this structure as an escape from the now ordinary chaos of their lives.”
If you’ve been on the Internet in the past week, you’ve probably heard about Beyoncé’s incredible new record, Lemonade. Noah Friedman at Wordshop 101 explains why Lemonade is great press for poets (particularly Warsan Shire, who is featured in the film). Andrew Kay writes on how reading poetry aloud connects us with the dead.
The art of book translation becomes even more challenging when you translate a book that hasn’t been updated since the Cold War. At Asymptote, Jacek Dehnel discusses how much changed from Ariadna Demkowska’s 1962 translation of The Great Gatsby to his current work. “Demkowska was working under very different circumstances: behind the Iron Curtain and without access to Google. It was, therefore, more difficult for her to track down various details, such as those concerning well-known financiers or popular culture starlets of the 1920s.”
Sometimes things get a little kinky at Rock Bottom Remainders shows, the little known rock band with some big members including Amy Tan, Stephen King, and Dave Barry. Tan’s signature song is “These Boots are Made for Walking.” “For ‘Boots’ I’m especially gifted. I wield a whip and at the end of the song, I tell the boys to bend over,” she told The Daily Beast for a “How I Write” interview.