People will say that MFAs are bullshit. You don’t become a good writer by going straight from college to graduate school, by sitting around tables and talking about books. People say that MFAs teach us the “correct” way to write: how words are supposed to sound, what details we’re supposed to use, the proper shape of a plot, the way an ending’s supposed to feel. People say that MFAs produce writers who produce the same old boring story.
I remember reading some article, shortly before I began my MFA program—I think it was in Poets & Writers—which talked about how writers have this reputation of being crazy and drunk. The author of the article was saying her grad program was the opposite—that they all stayed in during the weekends and wore braces at the keyboard to prevent carpal tunnel.
There was an “extraordinary explosion of language” in the 1920s, said Sarah Churchwell yesterday on BBC’s World Update. Churchwell, author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, explained that words like “mass media,” “Hollywood” (to described the movie industry), and some of our favorite slang emerged during the prohibition era.
“Using ‘wicked’ as a term of approval” was first recorded in Fitzgerald’s 1920 novel This Side of Paradise, said Churchwell. And the act of partying (as a verb) was first used by E. E. Cummings in a 1920 letter describing how he’d “partied” in Paris.
The Lit List is a sometimes-weekly compendium of New York’s finest literary events and readings. Something we should know about? Email email@example.com
Monday, May 6
Ben Greenman launches his novel The Slippage at Franklin Park with Sam Lipsyte, Touré, Claire Vaye Watkins, Amelia Grey. You might have heard of them.
Sackett Street folks Nick Dybek, Julie Sarkissian, Amy Shearn and Jill Di Donato read to the masses at Book Court.
Welcome back to the Critical Hit Awards for book reviews. This is a round-up, a recommended reading list, and—why not?—a terribly prestigious and coveted prize. Winners receive a bang-up gift from Field Notes, our beloved sponsor. Nominate your favorite review of the month by tweeting it at @electriclit with the hashtag #criticalhit, or cast your vote in the comments section below.
Our guest judge is Dan Kois, editor of the Slate Book Review.
Electric Literature: The Slate Book Review had its first birthday in March. Happy birthday!
Dan Kois: Thanks! I’m really proud of our first year. As a mode of covering books, it’s working: Traffic and conversation are both up on our books coverage as compared to pre-SBR times. Our VIDA numbers could’ve been better, though. [EL covered the VIDA count here.]
Electric Literature: If your reviews carried no identifying marks—no Slate logo, no byline—would a reader be able to guess that they came from the Slate Book Review? Should they be able to?
Dan Kois: Every review I edit contains hidden within its text the name of my daughter, Nina.
The Lit List is a sometimes-weekly compendium of New York’s finest literary events and readings. Something you think we should know about? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 29
Slice contributors play exquisite corpse at Housing Works. Theme? Obsession. What will happen? C’est mystère … More informations here.
PEN World Voices begins with just a few notables: A. Igoni Barrett, David Frakt, Darrel Vandeveld, Joy Harjo, Jamaica Kincaid, Ursula Krechel, Earl Lovelace, Vaddey Ratner, Mikhail Shishkin, Najwan Darwish and host Baratunde Thurston. Cooper Union for $20/25 (member/nonmember)
PEN America has a sweet new website, and their World Voices festival, kicking off April 29, is truly stacked. Two perfect reasons to throw one raging party on Wednesday night at Chez Andre, the sexy basement of the East Village’s Standard Hotel. The room was packed with PEN friends and lovers from start to finish. F.S. Fitzgerald himself would have swooned at the sheer volume of gin and tonic among the crowd, courtesy of liquor sponsor Hendrick’s. And even from the darkest corners of our subterranean space, spring was springing in the form of pretty party dresses. Event co-hosts Lauren Cerand and Uzoamaka Maduka had two of the best. Adam Wilson and Tea Obreht played guest DJs for the evening, though there was no actual record spinning involved. Fear not, the DJ booth—complete with gaping mouth wall art in relief—still saw its share of action, serving as scenery for more than one outrageous photo series. PEN’s Paul Morris was doing his typical thing, somehow engaged with everyone at once. The whole thing was swanky without being stuffy and just the right amount of boozy to boot. If this is what the rest of the lit party scene looks like this season, we’re in for treats.
Yesterday we held a Twitter contest for the best #AuthorSexts, a tribute to Sam Pink’s sexting campaign to launch his new novel, Rontel. Participants sullied the voice of their favorite author or sexed-up a famous book title with a filthy pun. With hundreds of entries, it was a deplorable, shameful, wonderful union of highbrow and lowbrow.
The authors of our five favorite #AuthorSexts, and winners of free eBooks of Sam Pink’s new novel, are: @TheLincoln, @RRRubenstein, @Seasheila, @GuthrieK, and @SimonArcan. But since sext is always better with a partner, we’ve shared some of the highlights below. Definitely NSFW.
The Lit List is a sometimes-weekly compendium of New York’s finest literary events and readings. Not on the list? Email email@example.com
Monday, April 15
Fiona Maazel talks to Jennifer Gilmore–for real. At McNally J.
Tuesday, April 16
Renata Adler talks Speedboat and Pitch Dark at the Center for Fiction.
Josh Henkin and Josh Rolnick: the literary Joshes. They get talking at WORD about Rolnick’s Pulp and Paper and Henkin’s The World Without You.
On Sunday, before most of us were awake, Leah Umansky was pulling a dress made out of her poetry collection, Domestic Uncertainties, over her head. She and three others–Rebecca Lawniczak, Gabriel Don and Holly Messit (l-r)–traipsed around the Met’s antiquities in their paper creations fashioned by Joseph A. W. Quintela. Quintela’s #bookdresses have appeared at The Strand and Project Space Envelope in the LES.
Paper dresses made a splash at the Lancaster Lit Fest in 2010 when author Claire Messey wore a fairy tale bridal gown. Will we see one of these at Lit Crawl in September?
Also, can you sit down in one of those? “I can’t sit in mine but it’s a month old,” Umansky told us. “I’m afraid of ruining it. Really, when I stop being so cautious it might get more flexible.”
How many months old is your poetry dress?
—Erika Anderson is one-half of The Outlet’s editorial team. (The other half is here.)
The Lit List is a sometimes-weekly compendium of New York’s finest literary events and readings. Everything’s free unless it’s not. Something we should know about? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, April 8
Where are Heidi Julavits, Fiona Maazel, Teddy Wayne, David Gilbert and Maris Kreizman hanging out? Franklin Park Reading Series. (Maazel just recommended some reading)
Tuesday, April 9
Invasion! Pank Magazine tells true stories at KGB
Wednesday, April 10
What did you do with a fifth issue? Carouse! The Coffin Factory carouses with Joshua Cohen and Kathleen Alcott at Housing Works