At The End of the World Review, Lauren Oyler talks about her career as a critic and writer, why literary fiction needs protecting, and the differences between literary culture in America and Europe. “It is certainly valuable to see people living and writing in other ways. To a certain extent in Europe, you’re more likely to be around people who have been encouraged to read a lot more serious literature and philosophy, and they aren’t just wealthy or upper-class people,” she says. “Meanwhile, in the United States you can go through an entire private-school-to-Ivy-League education and still be stupid. There are many very smart Americans, but they aren’t being served by our publishing industry or media or our ‘literary culture.’ I think many people are very alienated by the way things work here—enough people to make a bestseller!—not because it’s inaccessible, but because it’s patronizing. You can find a lot of great reading through weird avenues, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to look very hard.” Oyler’s debut novel, Fake Accounts, will be published in February.
It’s common for descriptions of James Joyce’s Dubliners to label its stories portraits of Irish life. If you’d like to look at actual portraits of Irish life in 1904, however, you could do a lot worse than this series of old photos of Dublin, available online courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute.