At The New York Times, Parul Sehgal examines time through the writing being produced during the pandemic, as well as the books she reads (and re-reads). “To describe the passage of time has always been one of the favorite challenges of the writer or philosopher,” Sehgal writes. “‘Where is it, this present?’ William James wondered. ‘It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.’ In Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor, the heroine declares: ‘We can never know Time. Our senses are simply not meant to perceive it.’ The mysteries of time are bound up in the great unknowns of the body and universe, from consciousness to black holes.”
In writing her novel The Last Neanderthal, which published this week, Millions staffer Claire Cameron relied on Jane Smiley’s motto for writing historical fiction: “you are there.” Bonus: Don’t miss our interview with Cameron, in which she describes her many “life-long obsessions.”
Few things are more individual than your feelings about e-books. Dustin Illingworth can’t stand them — as he puts it, “books are meant to be handled and smelled.” At Full-Stop, he writes about what this preference reveals about himself. You could also read our tribute to e-book pioneer Michael Hart.
Let the Great World Spin author (and one of today’s YiR2011 writers!) Colum McCann had some inspiring words for this year’s crop of Boston College freshmen. “There’s a degraded discourse around the notion of optimism these days that says there is something soft about being an optimist—something wrong,” he said. “It claims that optimism has no edge, as if it’s less than complete, less than the full deck of knowledge. The optimist is cartooned into the corner with an idiotic grin. I submit to you that none of that is true.”