Madeleine Olneck’s new film, Wild Nights with Emily, explores Emily Dickinson’s romance with Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister-in-law and neighbor. Olneck was able to use Dickinson’s poems in the film with the permission of Harvard University Press, something that seems strange to Seth Perlow at the Los Angeles Review of Books. “One ought not expect a single institution to unilaterally change the norms of intellectual property,” Perlow writes, “but in the case of a poet as famous as Dickinson, one might wish that Harvard would relax its grip. As it stands, the wealthiest university in the world claims the rights to a body of poems that were unpublished when their author died, over 130 years ago, and many of whose source manuscripts this institution has never possessed.”
Few classic and contemporary author pairings seem as apt as Edith Wharton and Jia Tolentino. Thanks to Modern Library, the two are finally together in a new edition of The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s novel of manners set in New York’s high society. In her introduction, Tolentino paints the novel’s heroine, Undine Spragg, as an easily relatable figure for today’s readers: “For my money, no literary antiheroine can best Undine—a dazzling monster with rose-gold hair, creamy skin, and a gaping spiritual maw that could swallow New York City. People like her have been abundant in American culture for some time, but I never feel invested in their success; more often, I idly hope for their failure. With Undine, however—thanks to the alchemical mix of sympathy and disdain that animates Wharton’s language in the novel and allows her to match Undine’s savagery with plenty of her own—I find myself wanting her to get everything she desires.”
With his upcoming book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, coming out in January, Daniel Mallory Ortberg talks to Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore at The Guardian about the wide array of subjects addressed in the book. He covers everything from William Shatner and HGTV’s House Hunters to the Book of Genesis, particularly one story: “I think there’s so much in the story with Jacob wrestling with the angel of Penuel. I wrote that story from the angel’s perspective. So much of that story feels like it has a lot of trans-resonance. There’s no explanation about what the figure—the angel—comes for. It ends with this strange touch where afterwards he never walks the same way again. He has a new name. He is no longer called Jacob.”
When’s the last time you binged a book in one sitting? It was probably not as recent as your last Netflix binge. For The New York Times, novelist Ben Dolnick says it’s time we indulge more in binge reading and reap its benefits: “Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest. A writer’s voice—Grace Paley at her slangy best, Nicholson Baker at his hypomanic craziest—starts to seep into and color the voice of your innermost thoughts.”
Image credit: “Reading by the Window,” Charles James Lewis
The road trip novel was a part of the literary canon long before On the Road. Over at City Lab, Andrew Small interviews history professor Allen Pietrobon, who discusses the need for updating the canon to include women and people of color. “Historically, a woman who had the money to embark on a solo road trip still couldn’t, because she would have been constrained by her social class,” says Pietrobon. “[For people of color,] travel is not the fun, lovely, free-flowing, discover-yourself journey. Even the simple things—getting to stop at a gas station or eat at a restaurant—are much more difficult.”
Image credit: Arfan Uddin
“The nice thing about talking to undergrads is that they are not stressed out yet about publication…Their love is still pure, and it’s very energizing.” For Lithub, R.O. Kwon talks to Maris Kreizman about book tours at colleges, losing religion, and her novel, The Incendiaries, now out in paperback. Pair with Kwon’s excellent Year in Reading entry from a couple years back.
You might have seen the new Little Women trailer by now. In a series of quick cuts, the eminently familiar faces of Emma Watson and Saoirse Ronan, as well as the faces of Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen, flash on the screen: 2019’s wholesome and soft-feminist embodiment of those four famous girls some of us know so well from childhood. Unobjectionable, right? A new book called March Sisters also comes out this year, containing the musings of four well-known writers on their relationships to the book’s protagonists. But what about the latest adaptation of Emily Dickinson’s life, in which Hailee Steinfeld plays a punk-rock, badass Dickinson who writes about “wild nights”—and isn’t talking about religious ecstasy? For The Guardian, Adrian Horton asks how modernized should literary adaptations be? What liberties is it okay to take?
Rachel Monroe always wanted to be a person who’d written a book, but it took years to become someone who wanted to write a particular book. Her work as a reporter eventually led her to write Savage Appetites, which follows four women who become obsessed with violent crime, either as an investigator, defender, victim, or (would-be) killer. In a conversation with Jonny Auping for Longreads, Monroe discusses this fixation as a cultural phenomenon, saying that she was writing against “that feeling of numbness or checking out or zoning out that sometimes came over me…these stories sort of short circuit the parts of us that know better and have a sense of who is really at risk when you look at the statistical realities of crime versus these stories that make us all feel like at any moment someone is going to come through the door with a knife.”
Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say you’re a lover of poetry. Maybe you like to read our poetry excerpt series; perhaps you eagerly await our monthly must-read poetry lists. Now, a step further: perhaps you write poetry? Might you be looking for a place to submit said poetry (and have been energized, instead of dejected, by Glen Cadigan’s recent essay on submissions)? Is it possible that you have not yet compiled the highly detailed spreadsheet of poetry journals, submission dates, and contests that every aspiring poet must make before sending out a single poem for consideration? To get you started, Meimei Xu of The Adroit Journal has put together a list of the best places to submit poetry in 2019. Complete with information on submissions periods, links to past issues, and blurbs about the history and mission of each journal, the list includes both big names, like Ploughshares and The Kenyon Review, and lesser-known gems, like Diagram and Waxwing.
In therapy, “the thing” is, traditionally, what’s not discussed, that which both therapist and patient avoid. “You only know it,” writes clinical psychologist Natasha Stovall, “by the silence and illogic that surrounds it, and the extremes to which the patient will go to erase any sign of it in their own mind, and in their therapist’s, too.” In her essay for Longreads, Stovall asks: “What if whiteness is the thing?” How do we treat whiteness?
Image Credit: Pxhere.