At the Paris Review, Courtney Zoffness discusses her book, Spilt Milk, with Lynn Steger Strong, and how writing it was an exercise in embracing uncertainty. “Endings are so deceptive,” Zoffness says. “That final period gives the illusion of resolution or conclusion when my thoughts and feelings on nearly every subject and experience in Spilt Milk remain unresolved. I think that one of the aims of an essay is to ask questions, not necessarily answer them, and I try to embed this spirit of inquiry in each piece, to be transparent about my own internal conflicts or uncertainty along the way—whether over parental choices or astrology or my feelings about other people. I want to show messiness. This approach hopefully trains readers not to expect a resolution, but it can also make it harder for me to discern the right endnote. Several of these endings gelled through trial and error.”
“Legal writing, save for the prose of a precious few lawyers and judges, has rarely contributed to the literary enterprise. Yet there are times when legal proceedings have helped the public at large to reconsider the experience of reading in commercial, emotional, and intellectual terms.” Ian Crouch on the odd experience of reading the statements of Lance Armstrong.
New this week: The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota; The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien; Chicago by Brian Doyle; The Destroyer in the Glass by Noah Warren; Dothead by Amit Majmudar; Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead by Millions contributor Buzz Poole; and New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
French-Canadian writers are in an odd place when it comes to Canadian literature. By the official definition of CanLit, they’re part of the canon, yet because of the Quebecois language barrier, they maintain a certain distance from the literature of English Canada. At Page-Turner, Pasha Malla writes about their odd identity. You could also read Andrew Saikali on Canadian novellas.
Students at the University of California Santa Barbara, Rutgers, Oberlin, and others have been requesting “trigger warning” labels on literature from The Great Gatsby to Huck Finn. In The Guardian, University College London Professor John Mullan snipes, “You might as well put a label on English literature saying: warning – bad stuff happens here.”
Joan Didion and NPR uber-interviewer Terry Gross will be honored at the National Book Awards ceremony in November. Dideon won a National Book Award in 2005 for her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking.The National Library of Scotland flooded yesterday thanks to a faulty sprinkler system. It was a close call: “Some modern books and manuscripts suffered ‘surface’ water damage, but all of the ‘important, iconic’ books were saved.”Oops! A church in England sold some rare tomes for modest though still substantial sum to a book dealer, only to find, too late, that they are worth much, much more.