Black Cardigan is a great newsletter by writer-editor Carrie Frye, who shares dispatches from her reading life. We’re thrilled to share some of them on Longreads. Go here to sign up for her latest updates. *** Harriet Hardiman was ‘a cat’s meat man.’ That is, she went out most days with a handcart full of chopped meat on skewers […]
Thirty years ago, the world lost a great literary mind—the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. Today, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens revisits the financial conditions that produced this life of pure literature, finding unexpected hope in the darkest period of Borges’ forgotten past.
Sherlock Holmes feels uncannily contemporary these days — from his dizzying array of post-hipsterish quirks (Cocaine user! Virtuosic violin player! Exotic tobacco aficionado!) to a social aloofness that feels straight out of a Millennial INTP‘s playbook. (His knack for Twitter-ready aphorisms doesn’t hurt, either.) I’ve been rereading Conan Doyle’s stories for almost 20 years, and the guy has never felt more fresh.
Fifty years later, he awoke one fine morning like Rip Van Winkle, and found himself again with his sea bag on his shoulder looking for anywhere he could live and work. The new owner of his old flat now wanted $4,500 a month, and many of his friends were also evicted, for it seemed their buildings weren’t owned by San Franciscans anymore, but by faceless investors with venture capital. Corporate monoculture had wiped out any unique sense of place, turning the “island city” into an artistic theme park without artists. And he was on the street.
John Steinbeck—born 113 years ago Thursday—wrote more than thirty books, and The Grapes of Wrath, which you were most likely assigned to read in high school, is widely considered to be his best work. The novel was published in 1939 to great acclaim, both critically and commercially; it “was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national talk radio; but above all, it was read.” It was also the New York Times’ bestselling book of 1939, and won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.
The summer after my freshman year I found myself working as a substitute mail carrier in one of the tony North Shore suburbs outside Chicago. The post office was an intriguing place (just see short stories by Eudora Welty and Herman Melville). I discovered, after a steep learning curve, that I could sort and deliver […]
The specialty of the novel is that the writer can talk about his characters as well as through them or can arrange for us to listen when they talk to themselves. He has access to self-communings, and from that level he can descend even deeper and peer into the subconscious.
Time carried back to the future, once again seen and understood as it was in antiquity, not only as mortal enemy but also as immortal ally. The counterrevolution against the autocratic regime of uniform, global time (commercially and politically imperialist) was pressed forward by many of the artists and writers of Einstein’s generation unwilling to […]
I went to the kind of college that really does say, “Here is the Western canon, read it.” Which is definitely not the only thing you want to do with your English major, you definitely want to reach beyond that, but it was pretty traditional in that sense. So I read the Western canon and […]
Orlando has long had a towering, and very much deserved, reputation in the LGBT community; it was published the same year Radclyffe Hall’s controversial The Well of Loneliness, depicting lesbianism as a tragic curse, became a bestseller. Woolf’s creation of a figure who effortlessly changes sex casually upends any notion that biological sex is related […]
Maybe it wasn’t just Nelle’s insecurity that held her back from becoming “the Jane Austen of South Alabama,” but also the dismaying decline of the “small-town middle-class” idyll she’d staked her career on documenting. She had, after all, written a historical novel. To Kill a Mockingbird was filmed not in Monroeville but on an L.A. lot. There […]
When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them—fifty acceptable pages—it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him […]
Strange but true: Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot were pen-pals. Their correspondence began in 1961, when T.S. Eliot sent Groucho Marx a fan letter. It continued for several years, with them finally meeting for dinner in 1964. From a recent post on Daybook: The much-postponed event took place just seven months before Eliot’s death at […]
Charitably, we can see the practice of reviewing one’s own works as a kind of knowing critique of the insider trading that can occur among authors and reviewers. Why bother to solicit reviews for your books when you can write them yourself? There may, however, be something more poignant here. Even for holders of tenured […]
Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid, writing in The New York Times Book Review, about television vs. the novel: Television is not the new novel. Television is the old novel. In the future, novelists need not abandon plot and character, but would do well to bear in mind the novel’s weirdness. At this point in our technological evolution, […]
Let me state it so you get the picture clear as wind chimes in a soft breeze on a somnolent noon. Underlying my existence is a deeper intelligence that speaks to me when I am writing. My artist friends say I am an anomaly—no education, no family grounding, no proper socialization. My writing gifts seem to […]
Ben Tarnoff | The Bohemians, Penguin Press | March 2014 | 46 minutes (11,380 words) Download .mobi (Kindle) Download .epub (iBooks) For our Longreads Member Pick, we’re thrilled to share the opening chapter of The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, the book by Ben Tarnoff, published by The Penguin Press.
There were 79 degree-granting programs in creative writing in 1975; today, there are 1,269! This explosion has created a huge source of financial support for working writers, not just in the form of lecture fees, adjunctships, and temporary appointments — though these abound — but honest-to-goodness jobs: decently paid, relatively secure compared with other industries, and often even tenured. […]
You couldn’t see Skull and Bones from the seminar room in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, though it was directly across the street. But the building was much on my mind the afternoon of the reception and had been from the day I got to New Haven. To my 26-year-old self, it seemed nearly impossible that literature—Keats, Shelley, […]