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Rebecca Solnit

Back in April, Rebecca Solnit contributed to Cosmopolitan‘s ‘Get that Life’ series, where she talks about her career as a writer, historian, and activist. She discusses how she came to turn a vocation into a profession, and ends by reflecting on the role that writing continues to play in her life:

“My life has been startling to me. Nobody had ambition on my behalf when I was young. Nobody led me to have high expectations of myself or even to think about some of the things that have happened, about being something of a public figure, playing a role in some of the conversations in the culture, making a living by writing. I just wanted to do this thing, which was about describing the world as I saw it, about the art of telling stories, working with language, finding relationships and patterns in the world, intervening on behalf of the things I’m committed to — and here I am.”

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In a conversation published by VultureDavid Marchese asks artist and filmmaker David Lynch about the reboot of his cult 1990s drama:

After being away from the world of Twin Peaks for so long, was it hard to find your way back into the atmosphere of the show and the minds of the characters?
It was just like rolling off a log.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s a very good thing, David. It’s hard to stay on a log. It’s easy to roll off.

You could hit your head, though.
That would be bad, David. I mean to say I know the world of Twin Peaks. You get Douglas firs in that part of the Pacific Northwest rather than ponderosa pine. I love vertical-grain Douglas-fir plywood. I love that world and all the characters from the original series. It feels like only a moment ago we were working on the original and then, a moment later, we’re stepping back into it. It’s just like that.

Lynch also shares his favourite topic of conversation (hint: it involves sitting quietly) and speculates on the importance of television since the decline of arthouse cinema.

If you are feeling anxious about the Trump administration, perhaps it’s time to start reading Samuel Beckett. In a piece for The New Yorker published earlier this month, Jon Michaud revisits a novel penned by Beckett during the Second World War. This idiosyncratic text, published as Watt, is described by Michaud as possibly “the least loved and least read of Beckett’s major prose works”. But that is no reason to dismiss it. He praises its bleakness and its humour, while singling out its “uncompromising […] indifference to such readerly comforts as plot and accessibility”. (more…)

e72b6-virginia-woolf-1935-man-rayPeter Fifield is giving a free talk at Birkbeck College on 17 May 2017 as part of Birkbeck Arts Week. The talk will demonstrate how Virginia Woolf‘s work connects to “a very specific moment in medical history”, and explore our tendency to link mental work with the activity of eating. To book a free place, visit the Eventbrite page.

And, if you are hungry for more on Woolf then do take a look at my recent interview with Kathryn SimpsonVirginia Woolf: A Guide for the Perplexed.

The Paris Review’s Editor-in-Chief on MFA Creative Writing Programs
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Loren Stein, editor of The Paris Review. Photograph: Paul Barbera

In a short piece published in July 2012, The Paris Review editor Lorin Stein responds to a query from an anonymous aspiring writer looking for places to submit their work. Stein’s response is worth quoting at length:

“Dear Newbie,

We get asked this a lot. It’s a reasonable question, but it always makes our hearts sink.

Here’s the thing: no matter how many classes you take, no matter how much time you spend at the keyboard, you cannot write seriously unless you read. And that means, partly, reading your contemporaries. Their problems are your problems; you can’t write—that is, you can’t write for serious readers—until you know what the problems are. I could give you the names of some good journals, but—supposing they take your work—what’s the point of publishing in a magazine that you don’t already read?”

Under Stein’s editorial gaze, The Paris Review seeks to find and support new voices in modern and contemporary literature. As an industry expert, Stein observes a worrying trend where unpublished writers are more concerned with seeing their own work in print than in beginning a meaningful relationship or dialogue with fellow writers. (more…)