Boston has announced the country’s first “Literary Culture District,” marked by memorials to Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath. It also includes some arguably less interesting sites – the buildings that used to house The Atlantic Monthly and Little, Brown and Company, for example. Caroline O’Donovan writes critically about the new district for The Baffler and concludes that “we’ve allowed glib cultural ideals to occlude economic realities, and tourism tax dollars to triumph over a candid conversation about the origins of art and the sustainability of its production.”
Thursday night’s abhorrent online vigilantism — in which Reddit and Twitter users seized upon police radio chatter to accuse a missing (and completely innocent) Brown University student of bombing the Boston Marathon — reminded us of one of the most under-acknowledged facts of the internet: that beyond the sleek, profitable edifices of Web 2.0 there remains the humming, virtual presence of an online crowd that is restive, unpredictable, and hungry for a cause.
I had to keep making noise. Because they kept coming. We were standing at the top of a hill and you could look down Comm Ave. and see a river of people with no end…As I write this they haven’t yet found who did it. It’s looking more and more like domestic terrorism, and I suspect it’s only a few people, or even just one, someone pathetic who has slid over the line into evil, looking up bombmaking directions online. But even if it’s a larger conspiracy—even if it was some vast international network—it is dwarfed by what I saw on Monday, on Commonwealth Avenue, at the top of just one of the many hills (there are always more, there is always one more): the runners coming, coming, not stopping. Thousands. Thousands. Thousands.
"Our bookstores hold a place in our communities where people go to escape their lives, to talk to a real person and just sit in a comfy chair surrounded by personally curated literature. This is what we do, who we are, so let’s make an extra effort to step away from our desks and computers and provide a safe and compassionate place for people to share their anger and grief today." In the wake of Monday’s tragedy, Boston’s bookstores figure out how to deal. And at The New Yorker, a poem for Boston.
The first step in containing the potential for trauma is safety. The second is to welcome the injured and fearful, the grief-stricken and the shocked back into the fold. This is animal logic—trauma research has found that prey animals, upon escape, need to rejoin the group and discharge their nervous energy, the stress hormones that kept them alive.
The Paris Review profiles the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, located in Cambridge, MA and one of two all-poetry book stores in the nation. And speaking of bookstores - if you’re visiting Boston for AWP 2013, Ploughshares has got a whole list of literary landmarks for you to explore.
[Image via The Paris Review.]
On certain fall days in Boston the air veers sharp, humming like a too-charged cell phone, and I understand why they hung witches here.
The literature of Massachusetts seems to reflect this fear. It is a literature of insanity, of extreme emotion; “Boston!” the teenage lunatics of Susannah Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted cry, in between bouts of failed suicide attempts, “Boston! You could jump out at a red light and split.” In the old Ritz-Carlton, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath used to meet after poetry workshops to down martinis and discuss their respective death wishes. And the Old Corner Bookstore? — Built in 1712, the building itself was erected to replace the ruins of Anne Hutchinson’s home, that Puritan woman cast out of Boston for talking to God.