At the Guardian, biographer Fiona Sampson, author of Two Way Mirror, reflects on the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose forced isolation due to respiratory illness led her to find an escape through writing — a respite we can find relatable during this pandemic. “She escaped via paper rather than a screen, of course; but her grasp of self-invention through a kind of ‘second life’ reminded me of all the friendships we were suddenly reconfiguring on Zoom,” Sampson writes. “I also realised how closely her practice prefigured today’s digital communicators: not just the teenagers and geeks, bloggers and TikTok stars, but citizen journalists, activists and those policed by authoritarian regimes too.”
Sometimes, when you read a lot of work by a single writer, you end up writing unconscious imitations of their work. The reliability of this effect raises an ourobouric possibility: what if you reviewed a writer’s fiction in their own style? At The Awl, Sarah Marian Seltzer reviews Henry James as Henry James. You could also read Charles-Adam Foster-Simard on binge-reading James’s fiction.
Out this week: Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg; Muse by Jonathan Galassi; The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida; Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave; The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus; The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein; A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay; I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them by Jesse Goolsby; The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes; A History of Money by Alan Pauls; Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly; and Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
Recent Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai writes about the difference between publishing your first book and your second book for Ploughshares. Let’s just say it’s the difference between champagne and “all the whiskey.” Pair with Zhanna Slor‘s Millions interview with Makkai in which they discuss that second book, The Hundred-Year House.