“The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” Alan Bennett, author of The History Boys, could have been here speaking of some of the stories online we’ve been reading and re-reading this week—links below.
In the short story “Chapter Zero” at Electric Literature, author Karan Mahajan describes a marketplace bombing, detailing the debilitating grief of parents who have lost their children with beautiful and heart-wrenching depth: “Mr. and Mrs. Khurana were forty and forty, and they had suffered the defining tragedy of their lives, and so all other competing tragedies were relegated to mere facts of existence.”
In an interview at Guernica, John Freeman discusses his new literary journal, becoming a writer, the effects of technology on our language, and the hidden details of poverty in literature: “I do believe in narrative as a way of restoring dignity of people in the world.”
A study by Richard Jean So and Andrew Piper published by The Atlantic compares novels written by MFA students and non-MFA students—finding no real differences between the two: “The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club.” (The authors go on to claim that this “erasure of voice” becomes even more wearying when examining work by writers of color and women.)
Lucy Ferriss on The Chronicle of Higher Education talks about Adam Calhoun, an eclectic neuroscientist at Princeton, who developed heat maps of punctuation in literary classics. Calhoun says that “he is not acting as a literary critic but as a neuroscientist.”
(And for any readers questioning the veracity of using Big Data to make big claims about literature, here’s a palate cleanser from Moby Lives.)
Finally: Two new poems by Kristin Chang—”my obituary is available for preorder” and “Aftermath”—published by Apogeee are filled with chilling images about race and identity : “Mother looses her molars/one by one and rolls them like dice,/something like prayer: the echo of light/off teeth, the act of swallowing.”