At The New York Times, book critic and Garner’s Quotations author Dwight Garner shares his decades-long habit of keeping a commonplace book. “It’s where I write down favorite sentences from novels, stories, poems and songs, from plays and movies, from overheard conversations. Lines that made me sit up in my seat; lines that jolted me awake…into it I’ve poured verbal delicacies, ‘the blast of a trumpet,’ as Emerson put it, and bits of scavenged wisdom from my life as a reader. Yea, for I am an underliner, a destroyer of books, and maybe you are, too.” He notes that commonplace books have long been popular, including among some of the most well-known literary figures. “Virginia Woolf kept one. So did Samuel Johnson. W. H. Auden published his, as did the poet J. D. McClatchy. E. M. Forster’s was issued after his death. The novelist David Markson wrote terse and enveloping novels that resembled commonplace books; they were bird’s nests of facts threaded with the author’s own subtle interjections.”
Suzan-Lori Parks wrote a play every day during Trump’s first 100 days as president which will be published next year as 100 Plays for the First Hundred Days. She talks to American Theatre about why she decided to undertake such a project, how difficult the process was and the importance of showing up and being present. Includes excerpts from the book.
Congratulations to the five young writers named to the inaugural class of the National Student Poets Program. Louisa Banchoff (17), Miles Hewitt (17), Claire Lee (16), Natalie Richardson (17) and Lylia Younes (17) were appointed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and they will serve as “literary ambassadors” for the next year.
Ever since our literary Tumblr round-up, we’ve been inundated with suggestions for a Part 2. Well, I can assure you, the “Least Helpful” Tumblr dedicated to awful Amazon and Goodreads reviews would make that cut if (and when) that sequel appears. (Hat tip to our own Lydia Kiesling for the link.)
“In noir, the problem is not an individual: the problem is the world.” Over at Electric Literature, Nicholas Seeley advocates for the efficacy of noir as a protest genre. Here’s a piece from The Millions’s Hannah Gersen that argues for Bartleby, The Scrivener as another surprising example of protest literature.
Every year, like clockwork, a few brave administrators ban a classic book in time for the opprobrium of Banned Books Week. This year, the brave administrators in question work in Randolph County, NC, where Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison will no longer be on the curriculum. Why? Real quote: it’s a “hard read.” (Related: Kelsey McKinney on banning The Bluest Eye.)