We’ve come up with a few bright spots of necessary reckoning, beauty, and insight from this week’s literary web to share with you.
- This interview in Los Angeles Review of Books: The way one writer, Yahdon Israel, documents what he calls the “embodied narratives” of Literary Swag, illustrating that writers and readers are more than marvelous walking brains. Israel has interviewed Karl Ove Knaussgaard, Anne Carson, Toni Morrison, Junot Díaz, Eula Biss, and others, about what they read, and what they wear. Israel studies and celebrates the ways that writers and readers tell stories in the classroom, on the streets, and at readings, with the clothing they wear. He examines narratives of aspiration, disenfranchisement, the aesthetic of creating without means, in the rich interplay of fashion, poetry, gender, race, and class. What I love in a book is that element of surprise–the strangely wooden line in a poem, the twist I didn’t see coming, the character who is so striking and vivid as to be unrecognizable from my own life, conceived and made whole by the artist. And what I love when I’m people-watching (or admiring my ensemble in the mirror) is a similar element of surprise–a weird lumpy sweater, some funky shoes, the way Rebecca Scherm sometimes wears a dash of black lipstick when she’s headed into the classroom, bright silk flowers in Airea Dee Matthews‘s hair in the middle of winter, Danez Smith‘s bejeweled rings dazzling each finger, or Diane Seuss‘s unabashed love of leopard.
As Israel writes of his own sartorial and literary choices: “My Margiela sneakers say a very particular thing to you, but then my National Book Award Tote may suggest something completely different. Taken together, you’re forced to reckon with what you’re looking at because no one thing I’m wearing says to you who I am.”
- And here’s Eula Biss in The New York Times writing on reckoning with privilege.
- A New Yorker piece on DreamYard: a successful program in the Bronx that “holds poetry contests between local kids and kids in other countries via Skype, makes posters for political protests, supplies art work for parks and other public spaces, holds acting workshops for adults, helps to paint designs on local apartment-building rooftops in heat-reflecting paint, and runs arts festivals. It believes that art can save the world.”
- Writer Maria Popova reflecting on the great Rebecca Solnit’s words on communication, community, and communion from Solnit’s latest, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.
- And this speech. Yeah, we know the National Book Awards was a couple weeks back. But watch it again, and again. And then return to Ta-Nahesi Coates’s winning book, Between the World and Me.
- (And have we mentioned how excited we are for Coates’s collaboration with Marvel Comics for The Black Panther?)
Please, Be Excellent to Each Other.