After I read the last page of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, I closed it and put it in my bag. And then I took it back out and read all the praise on the back cover. And then I perused her bio and acknowledgements and all the praise in the first pages. I even read the end page that tells you about cover design and font and whether it is printed on recycled paper. (It is thirty percent post consumer wastepaper. Yes.) I started to read it again. I wanted to wholly absorb it. Study it, like notes for an exam. Make them a part of my brain so I could recollect them easily. Remember the paragraphs like I would remember the chambers of the heart. I needed to repeat each passage immediately.
I wasn’t ready to put it away.
When we were kids, my sister and I loved to watch Bambi—the classic Disney cartoon with the baby deer whose mother gets shot by a hunter, and whose standoffish father, “The Great Prince,” can silence the entire forest with his presence. Continue reading
Sooner or later, you’ll have to say something about Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. This debut collection of linked stories from an English writer who lives in Ireland may be slim, but it’s packed with vivid imagery of a quiet life, and deep reflections from an unquiet mind. It’s excellent, it’s ravishing, it’ll win a ton of awards, it’ll show up on everyone’s Best of 2016 lists. So before everyone starts asking you about Pond, here are some handy talking points.
Pond is like a really intense diary with all the specific names and locations and backstory omitted. One of the best stories (“The Big Day”) takes place entirely within the narrator’s head while she sits alone, waiting for a party to start. It’s all about her inner thoughts.
Yes, but the book moves in both inward and outward directions. It can be incredibly claustrophobic—focused on one person’s whims and daily minutiae—and incredibly expansive—suggesting worlds of detail, meaning, and personality—at the same time.
They’ll Say: Continue reading
Over at The Millions, our very own Brian Hurley writes about Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai and novels that “perpetuate a seductive fantasy about the nature of intelligence.”
Read that thing.
Do you ever wonder what lesbians do in the bedroom? So do all lesbians, apparently. That’s why Anna Pulley, a writer and sex columnist, wrote a book of haiku about contemporary lesbian relationships. With illustrations of cats, of course! We asked her a few questions.
Haiku seems to be the only poetic form that you can create almost by accident. You might say something and your friend goes, “Wait, that’s a haiku!” Whereas you would never say something and your friend goes, “Wait, that’s a Petrarchan sonnet!” How many of the haiku in your book were happy accidents?
Surprisingly, not very many! I think after the book was done, I had more of those moments, because my mind was operating in a very haiku-ish way (and still is).
But certain scenarios definitely lent themselves to easily becoming haiku. For instance, there’s one about how a lesbian says she can’t go out with you because she’s performing long-distance reiki on a cat. And that came about because a friend of mine actually did perform long-distance reiki on a cat. So in that instance, it was just about giving the haiku a slight modification and letting ‘er fly.
They’ve imagined nightmare-inducing horror stories, near-future dystopias, and untold misery caused by everything from childhood to marriage. But when it comes to Donald Trump, some of our favorite authors draw the line. According to the New York Times, more than 400 writers have signed a petition protesting his candidacy:
A group of more than 400 writers, including big names such as Stephen King, David Eggers, Amy Tan, Junot Díaz and Cheryl Strayed, released an online petition on Tuesday to express their opposition to Mr. Trump’s candidacy on the grounds that he is appealing to the darkest elements in American society.
“The rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response,” they wrote.
Of course, that was yesterday. The number is now closer to 8,000 signatures. Continue reading
Patti Smith’s most recent memoir, M Train, was my amiable, occasionally absent-minded companion through the frigid first weeks of January in Berlin. Work commitments kept me apart from my husband for the early part of the year, and my solitude created an ideal state of mind to absorb M Train, which in large part is a meditation on being a woman alone in the world—and the search for a great cup of coffee.
Smith writes about her home life in New York City, which centers around a now-shuttered coffee shop, Café ’Ino, and Rockaway Beach, where she impulse-buys a modest bungalow she nicknames the Alamo. She takes us with her on her travels: French Guiana, London, Mexico, Japan, Yorkshire, Tangier, and, as luck would have it, Berlin. At loose ends one weekend while reading the book, I retraced her steps around the city.