In Defense of Unread Books

Do you feel like that pile of unread Tolstoy and Márquez on your bedside table is mocking you? Fear not. According to Karen Hopkin at Scientific American, just the presence of those books is enough to encourage literary habits. “What we were able to demonstrate,” states sociologist Joanna Sikora, “was that people who grew up around books had better literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving skills than people who had fewer books growing up but had similar education levels, similar jobs and even similar adult habits in terms of reading or engaging in various numeracy-enhancing activities.”

Image credit: Abhi Sharma

Karen Russell, Short Story Sorcerer

For the release of her new collection, Orange World, Karen Russell spoke to Brian Gresko at Poets & Writers on supernatural metaphors for motherhood, lonely mutants, and the pleasures of world-building. “With short stories it feels possible to hop across time zones and zip into new skins; also to take risks that I think would prove unsustainable for the length of a novel,” Russell says. “World-building is such a pleasure for me, as a writer and as a reader, and I love story collections because they feel like a miniature universe, with all these interrelated worlds-in-progress.”

Walt Whitman: Bottled and Brewed

Walt Whitman once wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” The poet’s wide reach will soon be showcased by Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Mich., which is releasing a series of seven beers in tribute to Whitman’s famous poetry collection Leaves of Grass. Each brew is named after an iconic line from the work, and the first one, “Song of Myself,” is a “a German-inspired American IPA.” The first beer will be released in July, so until then, you can brush up on Leaves of Grass, “a marvel of enigmatic charm.”

Image credit: Bell’s Brewery

Love and Rockets, Once More

For the release of Is This How You See Me?, the latest in the venerated Love and Rockets canon, artist Jaime Hernandez speaks to Carolina A. Miranda for the Los Angeles Times about revisiting old characters, punk music, Latinx stereotypes, and Maggie and Hopey’s origin story: “I’d go to these punk shows and I’d see women running the place and I loved their big mouths. They were doing something and they didn’t care. I wanted my Betty and Veronica, but with that mentality, with this real life kind of of thing going on. Gilbert and I were like, nobody’s doing this — let’s show the world that the world we come from is waaaay more interesting than a Marvel comic.”

Marginalia in the Digital Age

With the advent of e-books and digital reading, does marginalia still exist? Over at Real Life, Alexandra Molotkow looks at how marginalia has evolved within social media. “[In 2011], Twitter was still sometimes referred to as ‘micro-blogging,’ blogs themselves having descended from private journals,” writes Molotkow. “In the years since, marginalia has come to seem like a much more appropriate analogue, and Twitter something like an evolutionary step for annotation itself: a dedicated venue for readers responding to text and to each other’s responses, so intricately that the text becomes secondary, valued primarily for what can be said about it.”

Image Credit: Open Library on Flickr

Harper Lee’s Unsolved Mystery

True crime is more than a recent podcast trend—just take a look at Casey Cep’s forthcoming Furious Hours. The book tells the tale of Harper Lee’s journey to Alexander City, Ala., in the 1970s to write about a gruesome murder that was staged to look like a car accident. A video produced by Dustin Stephens from CBS recounts the famous author’s attempt to learn more about the crime, with “Lee [deciding] she was going to try her hand at crime writing, showing up at the two-day trial.”

Sally Wen Mao Reimagines Lost Moments

In her new poetry collection, Oculus, Sally Wen Mao explores various subjects from Anna May Wong to Wong Kar-wai to personhood to objecthood. Anne A. Cheng interviews Mao for Bomb Magazine, and they discuss how these topics merge in her confessional poems. Sally Wen Mao discusses art’s role in redeeming history and reimagining “lost moments, the feelings never expressed, the secrets never surfaced,” Mao writes. “I think that it’s possible for art to reckon with and mourn this loss even as it imagines or recovers what has been lost. I think it’s possible to simultaneously arrive at both.”

‘The Joy Luck Club’ Turns 25

The Joy Luck Club remains one of the best-known works of Asian American literature, and on the 25th anniversary of its publication, Amy Tan looks back on the landmark novel and its subsequent film adaptation in an interview with the Center for Asian American Media. Tan also reflects on the future of Asian American literature among second generation immigrants. “I think that we have many more second generation Asians in this country now whose parents are a little bit more open to their kids doing things other than the traditional jobs that make parents proud in former generations. My mother and father wanted me to be a doctor. I have friends now and their kids want to be filmmakers and they’re fine with that, even though it’s going to be a very hard road.”