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literature

Illustration by Ina Jang

The Male Glance

In the spring of 2013, HBO conducted a sly experiment on the “elite” TV-viewing public. It aired two new shows—both buddy dramas—back to back. Each was conceived as a short self-contained season, limited by design to a small number of episodes. Each had a single talented and idiosyncratic director for the entire season, and each dispensed with the writers’ room in favor of a unified authorial vision. 

<em>Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers In Postwar America</em>. By Merve Emre. Chicago, 2017. 304p. PB, $27.50.</p>

A Literature Worth Loathing

In his newly translated book, The Hatred of Literature, critic William Marx argues that celebrated minds like Heraclitus and Rousseau became utter lightweights when reading literature. Their insults, like all insults against the art form, were largely unoriginal and wouldn’t change much. “Real innovation is rare in anti-literature,” Marx writes. Presumably, this is why Marx was able to structure his investigation by four categories that sweep across Western history. These are the great “trials” of literature: authority; truth; morality; society. Hatred reads like an overblown victimology of literature in that its assailants have never presented a lethal threat. Belied, banned, or burned, stories and poems find a way of transcending their plight. For Marx, the true annihilator of literature is simply “indifference.” Against the coming wave of mass indifference, we can do nothing but join him in a helpless prayer: “May the gods prevent that day from ever arriving.”


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Photograph by Fred Viebahn

An Interview With Rita Dove

In Germany, I began to experience what it was like to think in another language. Also, the way Germans looked at me—with curiosity but no racial baggage—was so different than Americans. I began to understand a little bit more about my own country and how I fit in or not. 

Illustration by John Ritter

The Writer’s Dilemma

In October 2012, VQR gathered innovative thinkers in the publishing industry to talk about where, exactly, this business might be headed. We delved into the risks and rewards of digital journalism, the tension between Internet giants and scrappy start-ups, and the opportunities at hand in a volatile industry. 

Blurring the Worlds of Fiction and Reality

October 14, 2013

The experience of reading literary diaries and letters can feel like an act of voyeurism. For the reader, the first few pages of revelations are guiltily tantalizing, as the inner life of a literary figure comes into focus and trips are made behind closed doors.

Illustration by John Ritter

What Is the Business of Literature?

Most other accounts of the contemporary business of literature are autobiographical, hagiographic, or histories of literature, avoiding the business and economics of it all. So why study a business that is sui generis, that isn’t even really a business—that, like America, is exceptional? 

The Devil’s Tail: Reading From the Lives of Authors

I spent a day with V. S. Naipaul in the fall of 1980. He was teaching undergraduates that semester at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and he’d agreed to be interviewed for a projected special issue of Salmagundi magazine. My companions on this visit were the novelist Bharati Mukherjee and my wife Peg Boyers. From the first, in our preliminary phone conversations, Naipaul had expressed objections about my friend Bharati. “Why bring an Indian with you?” he asked.

Humboldt’s Gift

Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite novel, I find myself putting on a ridiculous but revealing little performance, pretending to a natural consternation—after all, who can narrow a lifetime’s evolving preferences down to a single title? [...]

Writing Life: Remaking a Norton Anthology

What redeems literary anthologists, if we're able to claim neither the creativity of the poet nor the analytic rigor of the cultural theorist? Having dedicated myself for years to constructing elaborate critical arguments, how did I get involved in what one of my friends called "pretheoretical" judgments about poem-gathering, a suspiciously curatorial practice in our supposedly post-canonical era?