Novelist Alexander Chee has written a thoughtful and eloquent essay about Twitter outrage, Twitter apologies, and how they reflect the world we live in now. “Who knows what we thought we’d get when we let the Internet into our lives,” Chee states, “but whatever it was, what we have now is paper tigers burning in the hot wind of the 4G network—and we are racing after them to watch them burn.”
In a recently translated essay, W. G. Sebald considers his long fascination with Robert Walser, the endlessly enigmatic Swiss writer: “Who and what Robert Walser really was is a question to which, despite my strangely close relationship with him, I am unable to give any reliable answer.”
In an essay that will appear in the forthcoming book MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, literary agent Melissa Flashman dwells on her fixation with “popularity as a process and a phenomenon.” Why, she asks, “are certain people, ideas, or stories popular at any given moment?”
Olivia Laing talks about her book The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, a study of six American alcoholic writers. “Encountering the damage that alcoholics do, both to their own lives and to those around them, is grim, particularly if you have personal experience of it. There were definitely moments when I felt like I’d happily never read about Hemingway again.” For more on Laing’s book, see Gerald Howard’s review in the current Bookforum.
In anticipation of the Olympics in Sochi, Jeff Sharlet, author of Sweet Heaven When I Die and a frequent Bookforum contributor, traveled to Russia to report on the widespread persecution of gays and lesbians there.
Haruki Murakami says he regrets his description of the small Japanese town Nakatonbetsu in his story “Drive My Car—Men without Women.” Nakatonbetsu residents have expressed outrage over the story’s portrays of the town’s inhabitants as litterbugs who throw cigarette buts out of their car windows while driving.
At TLS, Dirk Obbink explains how experts know that two recently found poems were written by Sappho—and what the poems say about the author herself.