Roxane Gay on How Audre Lorde Honored the Lived Realities of Women

At the Paris Review, Roxane Gay’s introduction to the The Selected Works of Audre Lorde is excerpted, a tribute to Audre Lorde’s defining contribution to contemporary feminism. “Lorde never grappled with only one aspect of identity,” Gay writes. “She was as concerned with class, gender, and sexuality as she was with race. She held these concerns and did so with care because she valued community and the diversity of the people who were part of any given community. She valued the differences between us as strengths rather than weaknesses. Doing this was of particular urgency, because to her mind, ‘the future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference.'”

Revisiting Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Speak Memory’ During the Pandemic

At the Guardian, Ryan Chapman recounts how Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory resonated with him during the pandemic and helped him navigate our changed reality. “My listlessness ended after I pulled Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory from my bookshelf,” Chapman writes, “more or less at random. I first read it 10 years ago and quickly saw the wisdom in the author’s oft-quoted line, ‘One cannot read a book: one can only reread it.’ Nabokov’s remembrances granted reprieve from the new abnormal and—crucially—guidance on how to navigate it.”

Claudia Rankine on Seeking Shared Realities

At Lit Hub, Claudia Rankine discusses her newest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, with Catherine Barnett, explaining how it does not seek out easy answers. “Just Us might be a desperately seeking conversation,” Rankine says. “I don’t want to suggest these interactions are conversations seeking answers but rather something more like conversations in search of a shared place for understanding, a shared reality, shared recognitions. The desperation has to do with a kind of historical misalignment before the conversation begins. The question becomes: Can we get aligned so we can actually have the conversation? Just Us, for me, often feels like the conversation to the conversation.”

Decoding Moments of Tension in Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’

At the Guardian, Sam Jordinson reflects on the many moments of sexual tension found in Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer-winning novel, The Age of Innocence. “Every small moment takes on huge significance,” Jordinson writes. “Archer and May’s brief disagreements over whether or not windows should be left open somehow say more about the state of their relationship than any number of screaming rows might have done. There are all kinds of similar telepathies with flowers sent and not sent, envelopes left empty, parties attended and avoided. There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ‘tremble’ in a library that changes the destiny of all the main characters in an instant. As a reader, the very act of decoding these messages immerses you ever deeper in the attitudes and customs of this strange world. It makes for a fascinating, engrossing experience.”

Baking Pies Inspired By Italo Calvino

At the Paris Review, Valerie Stivers takes on a literary baking challenge: crafting pies inspired by the works of Italo Calvino, using ingredients culled from his books and family history. “I must have been high on his genius, creativity, and playfulness when I attempted to climb into the trees myself,” she writes, “and invent a series of Calvino-inspired pies, interlocking like the chapters of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler and utilizing tree fruits and tree nuts from The Baron in the Trees. My plan also drew on a biographical note of Calvino’s: his parents were botanists, and his father pioneered the cultivation of exotic tree fruits in Italy, which made me feel that any tree fruit or nut was fair game. These high-concept pies would use new-to-me techniques such as chiffon, Italian meringue, chilled custard filling, blind-baked crusts, and pudding layers.”

Alyssa Cole on Leaning Into Anxiety

At The New York Times, Alyssa Cole discusses her new book, When No One Is Watching, with Concepción de León, and the difference between writing romances and thrillers. “When I’m writing romance, I’m leaning more into the good,” Cole says. “In every romance you have to also make the reader feel bad sometimes, but you lean into certain beats that will make the reader feel happy, feel hopeful and excited. In this, it was fun to be able to lean into things that would make the reader feel anxious, because I was anxious in writing it. I could explore the kinds of things that can be done in the story when focusing on that slate of emotions as opposed to romantic emotions.”

Kali Fajardo-Anstine on Representing Different Realities

For Elle, authors Kali Fajardo-Anstine and Mieko Kawakami interviewed each other with the help of translators, discussing their books Sabrina & Corina and Breast and Eggs, as well as the importance of finding your audience. “I have had the pleasure to meet Chicanas and mixed women from Toronto to L.A. who feel as though their reality is represented in my stories,” Fajardo-Anstine says. “They tell me beautiful things: ‘I’ve never seen my family name in a story before,’ or, ‘Your work encouraged me to ask my grandma about her life.’ Some readers from more privileged backgrounds, I’ve noticed, can find my stories unrelentingly sad, while readers from communities that have experienced historic trauma often find my stories hopeful, for they bear witness to our common experiences. There’s power in documentation, even if hard to look at.”

Elena Ferrante on Bold Adventures, Both Near and Far

At the Guardian, Elena Ferrante gave a rare interview to booksellers and translators and discussed her newest book, The Lying Life of Adults, as well as her acclaimed Neopolitan Novels. “Going away is important but not decisive,” she says. “Lenù goes away, Lila never abandons Naples, but they both develop, their lives are full of events. As I’ve said, I feel close to Elena’s choices. We don’t have to fear change, what is other shouldn’t frighten us. But staying doesn’t seem wrong to me; what’s essential is that our ‘I’ not be impoverished if we should confine ourselves to a space forever. I like people who are able to have bold adventures just going from one end to the other of the street where they were born. I imagined Lila like that.”

Leah Hampton on the Bifurcated Vantage Point

At BOMB Magazine, Leah Hampton discusses her debut collection, F*ckface: And Other Stories, which takes a closer look at lives in the modern-day American South. “My mother’s side is just like my dad’s—very working class, factory-floor socialist types,” Hampton says. “Everybody in my family always worked, and I’m the first person to finish college, write a book, etc. I often like to say I’m a bifurcated woman, half European in my thinking, half pissed-off mountain girl. Half in this Appalachian world, and half out. I think that’s a good vantage point from which to write fiction. Especially if you’re writing about a place that’s as bittersweet, complicated, and storied as this region.”

Raven Leilani on the Vulnerability of Hope

At artnet, Raven Leilani discusses her much-anticipated debut novel, Luster, the product of years of balancing work and art. “There were moments where I felt very bare and stripped-down writing this [book],” Leilani says. “I feel really, truly lucky that people are connecting with it. I had practical teachers who taught me to manage my expectations and I worked in publishing, so rejection was central to my experience with writing. It’s vulnerable to hope—but I think to make anything is really an act of hope. It’s a book that I wrote to be read. And the world met my hope, and there are almost no words for that.”

Bonus Link: —Writers to Watch: Fall 2020