Short Takes: By the Letter, By the Draft

Andrew David King
December 9, 2012
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August Wilson: “Blues is the bedrock of everything I do. All the characters in my plays, their ideas and their attitudes, the stance that they adopt in the world, are all ideas and attitudes that are expressed in the blues. If all this were to disappear off the face of the earth and some people two million unique years from now would dig out this civilization and come across some blues records, working as anthropologists, they would be able to piece together who these people were, what they thought about, what their ideas and attitudes toward pleasure and pain were, all of that. All the components of culture. Just like they do with the Egyptians, they piece together all that stuff. And all you need is the blues. So to me the blues is the book, it’s the bible, it’s everything.”

You’ve always loved John Cage and Woody Guthrie—but did you know Woody Guthrie loved John Cage?

Nabokov, among others, on how to read.

Peer into the archives of Poetry to get a glimpse of a whole treasure chest of old photographs, including some of Ronald Johnson, Harriet Monroe, Ruth Stone, Gwendolyn Brooks, Landis Everson, Larry Eigner, Diane Wakoski, and many more.

Not even the Romantics, it seems, could escape scatological humor.

More than six centuries after Chaucer’s ostensible invention of the word “twitter”—along with “womanhood,” “crude,” “caterwauling,” and other words—we’re lamentably far away from that time “When April’s gentle rains have pierced the drought / Of March right to the root…”

Some artifacts for your perusal: a childhood poem by David Foster Wallace and a 2002 legal decision written in rhyme.

The first page of a first draft of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, c. 1975

In case the constant slew of e-information has numbed your ability to discern the good and true from the sludge, some web-inclined magi have put together a list of books that might change the way you look at things (if you haven’t read them already, that is).

E.B. White on the 1973 animated, musical film version of Charlotte’s Web: “The movie of Charlotte’s Web is about what I expected it to be. The story is interrupted every few minutes so that somebody can sing a jolly song. I don’t care much for jolly songs. The Blue Hill Fair, which I tried to report faithfully in the book, has become a Disney World, with 76 trombones. But that’s what you get for getting embroiled in Hollywood.” (See how other authors responded when their works have met the silver screen.)

Most of the history of Western philosophy is now conveniently mapped out for your edifying pleasure.

Attempting the impossible: can New York’s 100 most important living writers be named?

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
/ As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
/ ‘ ‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door;
/ Only this, and nothing more.’” Only a vandal, and nothing more.

A letter from Kurt Vonnegut to Richard Gehman, who was about to begin teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the late 1960s

If Hollywood hasn’t infested enough of your life already, you can always download an app to hear William Shatner read your poem.

For all those donning black-rimmed glasses, an easily-understood flow chart guide to your next reading adventure.

Dollhouse, meet literary fiction: Julia Callon’s Houses of Fiction consists of a series of modeled scenes from 19th-century novels written by women, from Jane Eyre to The Awakening.

Computerspeak meets humanspeak with this word generator.

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