At the Guardian, Hanif Abdurraqib discusses his new essay collection, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, a celebration of Black culture through the lens of artists like Josephine Baker, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, and more. “People have an idea of what a writer is and how someone becomes a writer,” Abdurraqib says, “but you know, I was someone who struggled to not only understand the world but also struggled to fit into the world, and through those struggles often felt very on the outside. I used writing to get to the heart of why I felt that way. I do think that it is miraculous that I am here talking about something that I wrote because for so long writing was a way for me to survive, not in a financial sense, but to survive a world that I felt I was not made for.”
“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso on envy and the purpose of writing. Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness.
At The New Republic, Andrew Wylie talks about how he made millions off strictly “highbrow” fiction, a category which (for those who are curious) does not include the works of James Michener and the late Tom Clancy. Wylie — whose clients include Philip Roth, Martin Amis and Mary Gaitskill — suggests that a modern literary agency “needs to be able to expand infinitely, like a Borgesian library.”
Would you like your man-steak with green peppercorn sauce? At the LRB, Jenny Diski on Catalin Avramescu‘s Intellectual History of Cannibalism.