Archive for the ‘Recommended’ Category

Sam Riedel has written an excellent brief history of the chapbook from the Middle Ages onward. All you want to know in a pleasant ten-minute read. Recommended.


Excellent article in the New York Review of Books by Michael Kimmelman on Gertrude Stein and her brothers, Leo and Michael. Kimmelman explores, among other topics,  Stein’s puzzling support of  Fascism.

“What might be called the inherent narcissism of modernist abstraction, with its inward-turning focus on its own formal means and devices, its willful divorce from the sort of close social observation and proletarian politics that caused writers like Dreiser, Zola, and Sinclair Lewis to be tarred as anti-modernists, is not incompatible with the clean-sweep radicalism promised by fascism… (nor) with the notion of a centralized, supreme… authority.”


A recent conversation started on Facebook by Alfred Corn alerted me to this old (2007) but excellent article by David Orr. Orr’s main topic is the $200 million endowment the Poetry Foundation received in 2001. But he also sardonically analyzes the poetry published by the New Yorker, the one market that virtually every poet in the country longs to crack. How to get into the New Yorker? First, be a Great Dead Poet. Or, second, Orr says, make it as a Big Name and then let the New Yorker publish your worst work. Or, perhaps easiest of all, just work for the magazine. Easy peasy. Recommended. (Photo by Susan Sermoneta.)

See Vincent Francone‘s lovely little essay on the joys of holding an MFA here.

Takeaway: “I may spend life toiling in drudgery, but I’ll always have poetry to sustain – if I may borrow a line from Nazim Hikmet – the tiny jewel in the center of my chest.”


Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has worked through Flannery O’Connor‘s letters and found eight wonderful little gems of advice on writing fiction.Click here.  My favorite:

I know that the writer does call up the general and maybe the essential through the particular, but this general and essential is still deeply embedded in mystery. It is not answerable to any of our formulas.

Literary analysis is a wonderful thing, but if the story is a great story it will always ultimately evade analysis. And it will not be replicable by formula.

Excellent comments, too, after the post. Recommended.

Andrew Miller has a good article on how to create fictional characters in today’s Guardian. Click here. Very smart; well worth reading.


“No one writes for long without understanding that they are entering mystery and will never leave it.”

“At its simplest, its barest, characterisation is about a writer’s grasp of what a human being is. When we set out to write, we do not do so out of a sense of certainty but out of a kind of radical uncertainty. We do not set out saying: ‘The world is like this.’ But asking: ‘How is the world?'”

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 in Recommended

Read it here.

Recommended, especially for melancholy hipsters.

Why Do We Care About Literary Awards?

Excellent question. Mark O’ Connor argues that expecting literary prizes to be about literary achievement makes about as much sense as arguing that Grammies should award a prize to The Minutemen.

When you put it that way…  I mean, who can argue?


“They’re great for the publishing industry, …the handful of writers who win them… But I don’t think anyone …should be looking for them to accurately reflect what’s really happening — what is truly vital and new and exciting — in contemporary fiction… ”

Recommended–well worth reading.

OK, this is cool. Poems by the great Modernist poet Wallace Stevens illustrated by contemporary artists. And more will be coming all week. Check the link. My favorite so far: Sean Michael Robinson’s graphic novel treatment of “Sunday Morning.” Such an interesting project! Recommended.

OK! Karyna McGlynn offers up some refreshingly cheeky–yet practical–tips on submitting your work to journals and magazines. Takeaways:

— Use the journal’s own font as a means of subconsciously prejudicing the editor in your favor

— Skip the cover letter

— Keep the bio short and to the point

— Research journals you appear in to find more places to publish

— Make submitting a game

Much more at the link. Well worth reading. McGlynn, by the way, is the author of a very cool book of poems called I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl. Recommended.