Are you proud of your unthankfulness? Do you loathe Thanksgiving? Do you loathe everything? If so, you may want to disgust yourself with this cornucopia of literary misery, ready-made for your disapproval. Thwarted romance, hatred of country, bullies, Billy Crystal: it’s all here. Enjoy it now: you won’t thank me later. … Read More
“It’s very hard to explain to some people,” comedian, writer, and funniest person on Twitter Megan Amran tells me over the phone. She’s talking about her first book, Science… For HER!, a demented fake women’s interest magazine-cum-textbook where “Megan Amram,” described as a “fun, flirty young woman living in Los Angeles, California,” is dumped by her boyfriend Xander, gets a crippling addiction to meth, and then downward spirals into telling all you bitches about the best innovations in science (like KALE!). … Read More
After listening to failed prosecutor Bob McCulloch debase the English language for 15 minutes on Monday night, repeatedly exculpating himself in favor of blaming social media, I felt ready to turn to the language of poetry. But I have to admit that I wasn’t (emotionally) ready for Tuesday’s post-Ferguson outpouring of what I’ll just call, for the sake of shorthand, response poems. Thankfully, as yesterday proved, response or reaction poems don’t have to be politically reactionary. … Read More
One small point of hope in a dismal 24 hours out of Ferguson, Missouri. The library, which stayed open today… Read More
Sure, your favorite fiction writers probably have a book or two of nonfiction in them, be it a collection of essays (personal or critical) or a memoir about what it was like growing up to be them. But what about the outliers, the strange nonfiction journeys of our best writers? Did you know that E. Annie Proulx has an expert’s knowledge of cider, or that Willa Cather may have written a biography of a young woman who discovered her own religion? These nonfiction anomalies in a fiction writer’s life can tell us about the author’s passions — or, at the very least, what they wrote about for money. Here are our ten favorite nonfiction oddities and adventures by some formidable fiction writers. Some of these books are rare and out-of-print; some are still readily available (and worth your time). … Read More
The famous “Joan Anderson” letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac has been found in Southern California. Cassady apparently wrote the letter to Kerouac in a drug-fueled, sex-crazed haze on December 17, 1950. The rest is literary history.
Kerouac famously called the letter “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.” It was the muse that lent the jazzy energy and so-called “stream of consciousness” style to On the Road and the rest of his Duluoz Legend, in which Cassady appears as a clandestine presence (either as Dean Moriarty or Cody Pomeray). But the letter itself disappeared. … Read More
HBO will soon be releasing its documentary on Scientology, Going Clear, based on the book of the same name by… Read More
Twelve years ago, I inadvertently began a literary ritual that I’ve kept alive to this day. It was late in the first term of my freshman year of college, and I’d been assigned to lead a discussion on James Joyce’s “The Dead,” the devastating final story in his collection Dubliners. Never having read it, I was unaware of the symbolic importance of snow in the story. It happened to be the first snowfall of the year, and by the time I reached the book’s end, my romantic, teenaged soul swooned along with Gabriel’s, as he heard “the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” So, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I now re-read “The Dead” on the first snowfall of every year. … Read More
“Let me give thanks for your faithful paper on the lynch abomination,” Frederick Douglass wrote to Ida B. Wells, introducing her pamphlet on lynching, ‘A Red Record.’ “Brave woman! you have done your people and mine a service which can neither be weighed nor measured,” he went on.
Once one apprehends the extent of the prophetic journalism and anti-lynching activism of Ida B. Wells, it becomes difficult to see her as anything but one of the greatest Americans ever, at the pinnacle of the category of “unsung heroines.” Wells, who was born a slave and died in a new century as a lauded activist, editor, speaker, and journalist, is deserving of far more public memorializing than so many of the mediocre leaders whose busts decorate our marble halls. … Read More