Despite what Wattpad is doing to the novel, a new program called RapPad has given everyone an excuse to read poetry.
RapPad was designed to help aspiring rappers write the hottest computer generated rhymes. Over at Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent recently used the “Generate Line” function to combine famous opening lines with existing rap lyrics. For example: Continue reading
Olivia Laing’s The Trip to Echo Spring starts out like a bad joke. Raymond Carver and John Cheever walk into a bar—or rather, a liquor store. Within the first few pages, Laing introduces us to the men: brilliant writers from varying backgrounds who in 1973 have ended up both at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and in the spirals of addiction. The group biography widens after that, introducing writers who, like Cheever and Carver, balance alcoholism with creative genius: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and John Berryman.
Some of these stories are familiar—many will recognize the section from A Moveable Feast where Hemingway and Fitzgerald argue drunkenly through France on a trip to retrieve Fitzgerald’s car—and others less so. But as Laing begins retracing their literary steps, common threads appear, not only in these men’s struggle with alcohol, but the intertwined themes of sleeplessness and insanity, motifs of fire and ocean, and the recurring question: was booze helping or hindering the creation of their work?
The last question immediately brings to mind another set of artists and addictions: the jazz greats. Did smack put Charlie Parker in the right state of mind to improvise, or did Miles Davis’s skill conquer in spite of the drug? But heroin differs from booze in that alcohol is legal, socially accepted, and tangled up in almost all aspects of society. So the subject of addiction is a more nebulous one. Laing writes of Hemingway’s scoffing attitude toward men who can’t handle their liquor, of Carver’s note that at Iowa he and Cheever did nothing but drink (“‘I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters’”) and of Berryman’s praise from a student (“‘The most brilliant, intense, articulate man I’d ever met’”). They each walk a tricky path, and Laing is there to walk it with them. Continue reading
From our friends at Berfrois, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway going gorillas: