Last Week's Links

Literary Links

A (hopefully premature) obituary for Bookforum and the magazines that connect us

David L. Ulin laments the closing of Bookforum, a review journal “positioned in the middle territory between service journalism and the academy”:

To engage with an issue has long felt to me like going to a fabulous party where the guests are not just brilliant but also personable. This is how criticism is supposed to operate, to get your blood up. It reminds you of how much all this matters. It reminds you that literature is a collective soul.

Category: Literary Criticism

We all can reach a “flow state.” Here’s how.

Flow is an alternate state of consciousness, the complete absorption in an activity that athletes and musicians describe as “being in the zone.” I’ve written about flow before:

Here’s yet another explanation of flow and how to nurture it. Experiencing flow as either a reader or a writer is a transformative experience.

Category: Literature & Psychology

16 Novels That Blend Sci-Fi and Murder Mystery

Some of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve had involve books that combine two or more genres. Here’s a list of books that demonstrate “how speculative elements affect the traditional shape of a crime scene and its investigation” by blending “the genres of science fiction and murder mystery.”

Categories: Reading, Writing

Cormac McCarthy’s Respite From Loneliness

Maggie Doherty writes about the two new books by Cormac McCarthy, who “has built a reputation as a recluse.” McCarthy’s earlier books such as No Country for Old Men (2005) and The Road (2006) feature characters who wander all alone through bleak landscapes. But, Doherty writes, McCarthy’s two recent novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, seem to mark a new phase in his writing: “The Passenger in particular is McCarthy’s most peopled novel, his most polyphonic—and it’s wonderfully entertaining, in a way that few of his previous books have been. It is also his loneliest novel yet.” 

Categories: Author News, Literary Criticism, Literary History

The Psychology Behind Why Identical Twins Inspire Fascination—and Fear

Identical twins are just one example of the literary trope of doubling, suggestive of the concept of an alternate self or a second, secret identity. This article examines why many of us find identical twins so creepy.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literature & Psychology

To find great female novelists, stop looking in Jane Austen’s shadow

“When we try to find writers in the archives who are just like our favorite novelists, we end up asking the wrong questions — and miss out on some real gems”

Devoney Looser writes that the search for forgotten female novelists “crystallized after Virginia Woolf’s stirring 1929 ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ and by the 1980s a staggering number of early female writers had been unearthed by second-wave feminist literary critics who enjoined us to read and evaluate them.” But why haven’t we “discovered more Austens and Brontës — or even another writer as singular as Mary Shelley — among these pioneering hundreds by now?”

Looser’s answer lies in the way we’ve been searching:

it’s time to acknowledge that the ways we’ve been looking are part of the problem. When we go in search of new Austens or Brontës, we’re imagining we’ll find novels that remind us positively of theirs. We claim we’re searching for something new, and equally original, but in effect we’re seeking out literary echoes, not wholly distinct virtuoso performances.

Read about some other lesser-known women novelists whose work Looser, a professor of English at Arizona State University, believes deserve more attention.

Categories: Literary Criticism, Literary History

The College Essay Is Dead

Last week’s Literary Links included an article about the artificial intelligence writing application ChatGPT. The topic of AI-generated writing continues to heat up. Here, Stephen Marche discusses how the use of such programs challenges academia’s use of essays as evaluative measures of student learning.

Category: Writing

The Wild Future of Artificial Intelligence

As a follow-up to the previous article, Isabel Fattal here takes a broader look at how “AI-generated writing and art means for work, culture, education, and more.”

Category: Writing

Can AI Write Authentic Poetry?

Keith J. Holyoak, a cognitive psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, examines “whether artificial intelligence could ever achieve poetic authenticity.”

Categories: Literary Criticism, Writing

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

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