At Guernica, in an interview with Madhuri Sastry, author Claire Messud discusses her recent essay collection, finding hope in art, and the value of ordinary lives. “Who’s gonna see the handkerchief, which is literally for blowing your nose, right? And yet, this beautiful embroidery. It’s because each life is important. You might never leave the town in which you were born. You might never know anything grand. You might never have money. But in these small details, your life is made meaningful and made beautiful,” she says. “I do feel that this sense of the value of an individual life, however small, is being lost. It isn’t about it being seen by others; its integrity is in itself. That was given, that is worth preserving. And I think fiction is a place where that happens. It’s one thing to read a novel about Laura Bush, or Melania, or whatever, but most of the novels we read are about ordinary people, living ordinary lives, and that’s quite another thing.” We featured Messud’s collection, Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write, as a notable new title last month.
“You should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children,” Ruth Graham wrote in Slate last week, stirring the proverbial pot of new adult fans of Young Adult bestsellers like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. A host of YA-defenders rose up to shout her down. “You should never be embarrassed by any book you enjoy,” Hillary Kelly responds in The New Republic, unrealistically (we’re embarrassed by quite a lot). For the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg cites examples of worthwhile, complex YA fiction we can certainly support: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Pushcart War, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Westing Game.
Recommended Reading: Amy Gentry writes on the effects of rape culture and its permeations through art and literature. “I realize that what I’m describing here isn’t a list of books I’d like to see banned from the classroom; in fact, it is a list of my favorite books. It also a solid bit of evidence that Western culture is rape culture. Or, to put it another way: rape culture is just culture-culture. If only there were a trigger warning big enough for that.”
This fall the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program is offering a free, 7-session live online Advanced Fiction Seminar. The course will run from September 16 through October 28, and it will be taught by fiction writer Nate Brown. Best of all? It’s open to anyone with an internet connection. Applications are due September 6th.