Literary Doppelgängers Through the Ages

Doppelgängers ran rampart in literature long before the Internet made identity theft a daily occurrence. For the Guardian, Laurence Scott recounts the best books featuring doppelgängers, from Shakespeare to Agatha Christie and Philip Roth to Joanna Kavenna. “There are many ways to steal a face, and not all of them rely on the supernatural,” Scott writes. “The string of murderous misadventures in Patricia Highsmith’s 1950s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley depend on Ripley’s ability to impersonate the privileged Dickie Greenleaf. Here, a lack of technology perpetuates the hoax. In a world before it was possible to verify someone’s identity online, a passing resemblance to Greenleaf’s passport photo and a knack with signatures allow Ripley to draw money from his account and take over the dead man’s life.”

Virginia Woolf Gazes Backward

For the Paris Review, Lauren Groff takes a closer look at Virginia Woolf’s second novel, Night and Day. Unlike her more popular novels, like To the Lighthouse and Orlando, this book has a noticeably different tone. “The conversation Virginia Woolf is conducting in her second novel is not the conversation of her later books,” Groff writes, “the one with avant-garde authors of the early twentieth century like James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, but rather a shrewd and ultimately subversive discussion with the male writers of the Edwardian age, like Henry James, John Galsworthy, and her friend E. M. Forster. This is a book that gazes backward in time with skepticism and a virago’s impulse to shred into tatters all that it sees.”

To the Moon and Back

For Nature Research, David Seed looks back on more than two millennia of the moon in literature. From Galileo to Jules Verne to Johannes Kepler to Edgar Allan Poe, writers have always been fascinated with fact and fiction regarding the moon. “One lunar-literature pioneer was the second-century Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose A True Story is often cited as the first science-fiction narrative. Extrapolating from sea voyages, travellers are blown to the Moon by a whirlwind. In a satire on Earthly territorial conflicts, they encounter a war between Sunites and Moonites. Lucian’s Moon-dwellers are tall humanoids dressed in woven glass and subsisting on frogs.”

Image credit: NASA

At Home with Sara Borjas

Over at Electric Literature, Sara Borjas, author of Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff, reflects on writing about love and identity and building a Latinx community in a candid interview with Leticia Urieta. “As I wrote, and loved, I realized that there was such a power imbalance and imbalance in respect, not just between couples, but between friends and family. In Chicanx families, we value labor. If you are not putting in labor, you are not worthy of respect. I had to look at those relationships and what ideas they were rooted in so that I didn’t perform that way.”

The Chekhovian Rules of Writing

How did Anton Chekhov approach his writing? Over at Open Culture, they go over the lauded short story writer’s rules of writing, as stated in an 1886 letter to his brother Aleksandr. “In 1886, Chekhov advised that if Aleksandr wished to get published in the magazine Fragments, he should observe the following: ‘1. The shorter, the better; 2. A bit of ideology and being up to date is most à propos; 3. Caricature is just fine, but ignorance of civil service ranks and of the seasons is strictly prohibited.'”

Image credit: Osip Braz, Portrait of Anton Chekhov

Sor Juana, the 10th Muse

For JSTOR Daily, Matthew Wills remembers Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th-century nun who went on to become the founding mother of Mexican literature. From inside the convent, Sor Juana ran a literary salon and published poetry, comedies, drama, and more that expressed her political opinions. “[La Respuesta] was a passionately autobiographical defense of women’s intellectual rights and abilities. It was written in response to a Bishop’s criticism that she was too preoccupied with secular learning. The Bishop wrote his accusations under a female pen-name, pretending to be another Sor, or Sister.”

Image credit: Museum of the Americas

Recovering Iris Murdoch

Over at The New York Times, Dwight Garner remembers the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch on the centennial of her birth. With many of her books no longer in print, Murdoch’s posthumous reputation leaves much to be desired, and her ardent fans seek to rectify this. “She was the rare kind of great, buoyant, confident writer who could drive the whole machine,” Garner writes. “She was as in touch with animal instincts as intellectual ones. The scope of her vision makes you feel, when you are close to her fiction, that you have glimpsed the sublime—that you have swum very near to a whale.”

Colson Whitehead, Book by Book

Elevator inspectors, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, zombie movies: these are just a few of the things that have inspired Colson Whitehead’s books over the years. For Time, Whitehead goes over each of his books and the subjects that compelled him to write them. For his upcoming novel, The Nickel Boys, he explains: “It’s about places with no accountability. That dynamic between the powerful and the helpless, where our worst impulses can be let loose.”

On (Not) Being a Woman Writer

What happens—to you, to your career—when the “woman” in “woman writer” no longer applies? For Catapult, Lio Min writes about a journalism career built, in part, on being an “Asian American woman” who writes about “Asian American women’s issues”—and then about no longer being one of those things. “For as long as I’ve been a writer, I’ve been a woman writer,” Min writes. “Here’s the catch: Over the course of the past few years, I have begun to feel like a stranger in my body. The more I wrote about girls and women, the more distanced I felt from the figure I saw in the mirror.”Photo by Nayanika Mukherjee