J.D. Salinger at Home

Notoriously private, J.D. Salinger would not have liked the new exhibit of his family photos, letters, and notes currently on display at the New York Public Library, organized by his son, Matt Salinger. Despite this, the carefully curated collection includes a “phony” publication acceptance letter from Salinger’s mother, a metal bowl Salinger made as a child, and hand-drawn mock-ups of the minimalist book covers that accompany his works. “He sat down in his leather chair in the living room. I remember it was winter time. And he sketched it out. He was focused,” Matt Salinger told The New York Times. “He writes about distrusting the word ‘creativity.’ He always thought it was a space you’re allowed to enter. You’re given things to share by whatever God you think is operative. There’s a release in that, and an ease. It’s not the tortured artist, pounding things out. That was not his affect at all when he was writing. There was joy in it.”

Sarah M. Broom’s New Orleans

In her debut memoir, The Yellow House (which was recently nominated for a National Book Award), Sarah M. Broom writes vividly of her childhood in New Orleans East and charts the city’s drastic changes over the decades. She discusses her connection to her childhood home with Greg Mania in Paper Magazine. “I’m deeply connected to place,” Broom says. “This is an inheritance, I think, an intuitive way for me to be. But also, the yellow house was the place my mother owned, where my mother, Ivory Mae, raised her family. It was a place she made. I knew it was my story to tell the moment I left it. This book, as I see it, is only the beginning of that story.”

‘Goodnight Moon’ Revisited

Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Goodnight Moon has influenced generations of bedtime readers, as seen recently in Eric Betts’s take on the book’s world-building. For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Brian Goedde takes a closer look at the characters within the book, particularly the bunny at the center of the tale. “Children don’t buy their own books, after all,” Goedde writes. “We parents, grandparents, nannies, family friends, babysitters, quiet-old-lady caregivers of every kind continue to read this book because we need to know: while we want our little bunnies to separate-individuate themselves, once they do, what becomes of us?”

The Poet Laureate of Happiness

For The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt examines how the work of poet Seamus Heaney became synonymous with happiness and joy—and how it came to be quoted by presidents and casual readers alike. “It is this later, happier Heaney who comes into his own in his family’s idiosyncratic selection. Almost buoyant, occasionally repetitive, surprised by himself at least as often as he surprised readers, this Heaney remained self-conscious, revisiting and answering earlier verse. ‘The Conway Stewart’ is a fancy pen, the first the poet owned, and the sharp-lined, short-lined poem of that name returns to a three-way comparison in ‘Digging’ (the first poem in his first book), between spade and pen and gun.”

Jane Austen Goes Electric

When we set out to see a film or TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s work, we usually expect a fair amount of bonnets, coy smiles, and men in cravats. For the Atlantic, Helen Lewis looks at more recent Austen adaptations that are turning those expectations on their heads: “These new adaptations make a simple case: Costume dramas are not about wallowing in nostalgia, and Austen was not writing straightforward romances. Sanditon, for example, has an ‘acerbic, screwball tone,’ according to its director, Olly Blackburn—in it, Austen was trying something new. ‘It’s like [Bob] Dylan going electric,’ he told me.”

A New Generation of Historical Epics

A new generation of African women writers are taking on the task of narrating their histories and imagining their futures. For the Christian Science Monitor, Ryan Lenora Brown delves into the ways these writers are rewriting the historical epic. “This is a generation [of African writers] that isn’t just writing about colonialism and postcolonialism, or just looking at African governance and its failures,” says Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean writer and author of the novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light. “We write history. We write romance. We write science fiction. In this generation we have gained the freedom to write about the things that American and European authors write about, which is to say anything we choose.”

Jane Eyre Goes Global

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been reaching readers across generations and languages, as seen by the fact that it has been translated into at least 57 languages, at least 593 times. Matthew Reynolds examines how the novel became a global phenomenon, as well as how translators all over the world approach the text. “What was a thoroughly English book—anchored to Yorkshire and published in 1847—becomes a multilingual, ever-changing global text, continually putting down roots in different cultures. In Iran there have been 29 translations of Jane Eyre since 1980. When Korean is taught in a school in Vietnam, a translation of Jane Eyre is on the syllabus, as an example of Korean literature.”

To the Far Sector with N.K. Jemisin

With a list that includes Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Rainbow Rowell, and more, it seems that more and more authors are writing for comic books. Hugo award-winning sci-fi and fantasy writer N.K. Jemisin spoke to Charles Pulliam-Moore at io9 about scripting the new Green Lantern series, Far Sector, for DC Comics. “To me, a good story leaves them thinking about how societies are structured and how criminal justice actually operates,” Jemisin says, “how government, in some cases, defend themselves instead of their people. Things like that. I want people to think about these things, because, to me, that’s what makes a good story. But if they want to just do, ‘Oh my God, the new Green Lantern’s eyebrow game is always on point. It’s the best.’ That’s cool, too.”

Zora Neale Hurston: A Blurred Life

Zora Neale Hurston’s literary legacy lives on to this day, but few facts are known about her life. For the Bitter Southerner, Michael Adno examines the writer’s biography through the eyes of her acquaintances, her fans, and researchers: “When you look through her work, specifically Mules and Men, you see it—lies in exchange for truth, masks that reveal more than they hide, little tales that fasten down the spirit of something bigger. Ultimately, she told countless others lies in service of the truth. And so for decades after her death, any answers about Hurston only generated more questions. As she wrote in her 1941 autobiography, ‘This is all hear-say.'”

Image credit: U.S. Library of Congress

The Poetic Meter of a Viral Tweet

Writer Frankie Thomas recently had a tweet go viral—it was the perfect combination of Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Cohen, and Shakespeare. For the Paris Review, she dissects why that tweet in particular struck a nerve, and how it seemed to speak to our need for poetic meter. “My Sweeney Todd/”Hallelujah” mash-up is not in iambic pentameter,” Thomas writes. “I wasted no time informing [a Twitter troll] so. ‘Nope, it’s actually iambic tetrameter,’ I admonished him in a public reply. ‘And more saliently it’s ballad meter.’ But with great viral fame comes great responsibility, and this is the point at which I must admit that I, too, was wrong. It’s not ballad meter, either.”

Image credit: Sonnet 23 in the 1609 Quarto of Shakespeare’s Sonnets