For readers, there’s a bright side to the Best American Poetry debacle—a flood of recommendations for “actual Asian poets” (and a somewhat chilling insight into the experience of non-white writers in prestigious MFA programs).
At New York, Christian Lorentzen mounts a masterful defense of Joan Didion from the current tendency to split her into separate Didions (and dismiss some of her best work). Lorentzen, incidentally, presents his credentials early on: “Having read that Didion used to type out Hemingway to learn how to write, in my 20s I did the same. Then I just switched to Didion. I would type out ‘The White Album.’ I would type out ‘Goodbye to All That,’ skipping the epigraph.” He also reminds us that you don’t need to aspire to wear Céline in order to admire her: “I don’t know what jasmine smells like. I can’t distinguish organdy from other forms of cotton. Even if I read Didion, as Nabokov stipulated all literature should be read, with a dictionary at hand, many of the details about clothes and household objects are lost on me. ‘Loving’ a writer, for me, is a matter of returning to her sentences over and over again, not a matter of identification, aspiration, emotion, or taking her words as Gospel truth, but an attraction of attention. Perhaps that’s a defective — because it’s heartless — definition of love.”
Is religious faith required in order to believe that journalism can survive without paywalls? It can only help.
Bookforum contributors Christine Smallwood and Namara Smith will be reading tonight in Williamsburg as part of the Animal Farm series, as will Mark Sussman, who collaborated with Smallwood on a new book, ScarJo, launching this weekend.