At NPR, Julia Alvarez discusses why poetry, rather than fiction, gives her access to a better understanding of herself. “I feel like poems are where I am meeting up against the silence,” Alvarez says. “I’m trying to understand and give word to feelings that are yet to be brought into language. I wanted to touch on those moments where there’s a little enlightenment or a little awareness. It doesn’t have to be about something big or important, but those little things you keep to yourself — selves that you keep to yourself — and give us language to understand them.”
On The Nervous Breakdown this week, J.E. Fishman considers the book review practices of The New York Times: “My view is very much eastern, very much old school, where a book review from the Times was the only sure sign that an author had arrived. But maybe it’s time to rethink that, and this rethinking has been long overdue.”
“Writing difference is a challenge, particularly in fiction. How do men write women and vice versa? How do writers of one race or ethnicity write about people of another race or ethnicity? More important, how do writers tackle difference without reducing their characters to caricatures or stereotypes?” Roxane Gay reviews Joyce Carol Oates‘s The Sacrifice and simultaneously explains how to write difference well. Hint: it “demands empathy, an ability to respect the humanity of those you mean to represent.”
“Let me be frank,” writes our own Edan Lepucki for the opening round of this year’s Tournament of Books. “I went into this matchup excited to read The Round House, whereas I approached The Fault in Our Stars with curiosity and trepidation.” But did she wind up pleasantly surprised? Check out the rest of her write-up to see which tearjerker moved on to the next round. (Bonus: Janet Potter on John Green’s heartbreaking novel.)
Is Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life a Great American Gay Novel? According to Garth Greenwell, the book — which came out in March — is one of the most ambitious gay novels to come out in years. At The Atlantic, he makes a case that the book is a classic of its kind. You could also read Christopher Richards on Frank O’Hara’s lessons for gay men.