“The easiest way to appear to be well-read is to socialize exclusively with uncultured cretins, which simply won’t do, so instead you should subscribe to the New York Review of Books and read it religiously, committing to memory one idea from each piece and praying to achieve a casual air when, at a dinner party, fobbing off this insight as your own.”—Advice from Slate on how to appear well-read.
“I’m always inspired because I’m alive. It’s a gift to be able to do this. I don’t need outside inspiration. I need time. And if, and when, I get it, I use it. It would scare me to have all day long to write. I need pockets of time, spaces where it is tempting to write before the clock strikes the end. That’s where poems are born for me, when time is so compressed that the idea sparks out.”—Our own Nick Ripatrazone has been on a roll lately. Apart from the many articles he’s written for The Millions, he’s got a forthcoming collection of short fiction that includes works he published in Esquire and The Kenyon Review. He also published a new poem, “South Africa, 1988,” at The Nervous Breakdown, which you can read in conjunction with his self-interview.
The music of the thirties and forties—swing, the rise of pure jazz, even honky-tonk—was glorious. We can’t wipe out Bing Crosby’s cloying croon, but the rise of Hank Williams, Sr., makes up for Bing. The creators of “Orange Is the New Black” knew what they were doing when they included “I Saw the Light.” It moves all listeners, regardless of belief or lack thereof. The joy and genius of Fats Waller, the growl of Big Joe Turner, the irresistible combination of Billie Holiday and Count Basie (and of Billie Holiday and Artie Shaw) are ornaments on a period of exceptional music, and diving into it was one of the great pleasures of my listening, and writing, life. These songs, these voices, and the great instrumentals still resonate with me, and that’s why each chapter title is a song from that period.
I would like to have been there.
”—We hear a lot about the books writers read while drafting their own novels and stories. But we don’t hear as much about the music, TV shows and other forms of art that kept them going throughout the process. At Page-Turner, Amy Bloomcatalogues the influences on her latest novel.
“Between the 1880s and World War I, Hawthorne worked as the literary editor of the New York World, interviewed Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, covered the scandalous Stanford White murder case, reported on the 1900 Galveston hurricane and starvation in India, published five detective novels, became a friend of presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan, and wrote frequently about sports for various newspapers (being among the first to predict the greatness of Babe Ruth). But needing money in 1908, Hawthorne foolishly lent his name and pen to what turned out to be a bogus silver mine scheme. Convicted of fraud, he served a prison term — and in 1914 produced a major exposé of penal conditions called The Subterranean Brotherhood.”—He befriended Mark Twain. His father wrote The Scarlet Letter. He drank wine with Oscar Wilde, George Eliot and Henry James, and William Randolph Hearst once hired him as a reporter. He even published a few books to critical acclaim. So why do so few of us know anything about Julian Hawthorne? In the WaPo, Michael Dirdareviews a new biography. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
“If only you could paraphrase
how his yellows are. Spread flat
on your bed some eighteenth
century map of
Saint Kitts. What else is there
but ornamentation? My beard like
wheat. Like how the
cabbage palms seem unevenly hacked
by landscapers.”—Darin Ciccotelli
“When I was in college, David Foster Wallace gave a reading. As a joke I asked him to fill out a dining hall comment card. I also asked what, if anything, he thought of skateboarding, thinking that this distinguished author might have something profound to say. “The little fuckers run into me in front of the library,” he said.”—Joel Rice
“Writing is a bit like inflating a vast oxygen tent contained by a thin filmy membrane. Each time I write I have to breathe life into this, slowly blowing it larger and larger, making it more and more substantial, giving it shape. The sound of anyone’s voice, an approaching step, arrests me. I waver, and the whole filmy construct trembles, shudders, and then deflates, sliding into nothingness. It’s gone.”—Roxana Robinson on the writer’s need for solitude.
“Like the narrator of Norman Rush’s Mating, who was “overdetermined” for life in Africa, you could say that I — product of an evangelical Christian upbringing and Korean heritage of stoic endurance — was overdetermined for Lampedusa. His elevation of natural appetite as an ideal, and his vision for unity between body and spirit in their fullest expressions, radiate from the page. When I read Lampedusa the sun bursts up indeed, thawing all of that deeply seeded “puritanical horror,” as Warner puts it, and reconciling life forces that, as Lampedusa attempts to show us, were never meant to be opposed.”—Sonya Chung reviews a new collection of Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa’s fiction.
“It should go without saying that no one goes into poetry for money.”—Americans genuinely love poetry. In a new piece on The Millions, Kate Angus explores the struggles of poets and publishers to translate that appreciation into sales.