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30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web

30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web

Speak, Butterfly - Issue 8: Home The life and work of the novelist Vladimir Nabokov referenced many symbols, none so much as the butterfly. Butterflies prompted Nabokov’s travels across the United States, exposing him to the culture and physical environment that he would transform into his best-known novel, Lolita. Butterflies motivated his parallel career in science, culminating in a then-ignored evolutionary hypothesis, which would be vindicated 34 years after his death using the tools of modern genetic analysis. And it was the butterfly around which some of Nabokov’s fondest childhood memories revolved. Nabokov was born in St. Lepidoptera and his childhood home were inseparable to Nabokov, an idea he explored in his letters and his science. Even in his scientific writing, hints of the playful wordsmith emerge, as when he calls himself ‘a modern taxonomist straddling a Wellsian time machine.’ In sorting and ordering the Polyomattus, Nabokov identified seven new species, and rearranged the group’s taxonomy.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments: David Foster Wallace: 8601300235554: Books Ten Who Left Us: Select Literary Obituaries from 2013 In 2013 we lost two Nobel laureates, a revered editor and teacher, plus writers of crime fiction, literary fiction, poetry, history, essays, biographies, screenplays, mega-bestsellers, movie criticism, and memoirs. Here is a highly selective compendium: Evan S. Connell While it may not be accurate to pin Evan S. Connell with that grimmest of labels, “a writer’s writer,” it is probably fair to say that his restless intelligence and refusal to settle into a niche prevented him from attracting as large an audience as he deserved. For many readers, Connell’s most indelible novels are Mrs. Mrs. She really intended to force a discussion on election eve. Connell never married, never owned a computer, never sought notoriety. Chinua Achebe Achebe, who died on March 21 at 82, produced five novels and many short stories over the next three decades. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Elmore Leonard In the matter of Alvin B. Seamus Heaney They seem hundreds of years away. Carolyn Cassady Tom Clancy Oscar Hijuelos

A Lecture on Johnson and Boswell by Jorge Luis Borges Dr. Johnson was already fifty years old. He had published his dictionary, for which he was paid 1,500 pounds sterling—which became 1,600 when his publishers decided to give him one hundred more—when he finished. ….The truth is, in spite of his numerous accomplishments, he had a natural tendency toward idleness. Johnson had a peculiar temperament. ….Johnson was in a bookstore when he met a young man named James Boswell. It could be said that Boswell had a premonition of his destiny. There is something very strange about Boswell, something that has been interpreted in two different ways. He then recounts a series of instances in which Boswell appears as a ridiculous character. Now, let us take a look at the opposite opinion, that of Bernard Shaw. Then we have Boswell, who created the character Johnson. ….So, now we will return to the relationship between Boswell and Johnson. It is true that at times Boswell annoyed him with questions that were difficult to answer.

J.K. Rowling and the Chamber of Literary Fame Last weekend’s revelation that J.K. Rowling is the author of the critically acclaimed and -- until now -- commercially unsuccessful crime novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” has electrified the book world and solidified Rowling’s reputation as a genuine writing talent: After all, if she can impress the critics without the benefit of her towering reputation, then surely her success is deserved. And yet what this episode actually reveals is the opposite: that Rowling’s spectacular career is likely more a fluke of history than a consequence of her unique genius. Whenever someone is phenomenally successful, whether it’s Rowling as an author, Bob Dylan as a musician or Steve Jobs as an innovator, we can’t help but conclude that there is something uniquely qualifying about them, something akin to “genius,” that makes their successes all but inevitable. The Experiment What we found was highly consistent with the cumulative-advantage hypothesis. False Results (Duncan J.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The popular imagination gets Machiavelli all wrong — he was a patron saint of class struggle and a staunch republican. I keep a portrait of Machiavelli over my desk at work — an interior design choice that, I have learned, dismays some of my coworkers. Amid a recent mid-afternoon zone out, I received an email from one of them with the title “Who Wants to Serve a Billionaire?” The message contained a link to an article in the Guardian about a growing group of international multi-billionaires, their so-called “superyachts,” and the desperate lower-class Britons and Eastern Europeans who serve them as deckhands. The report is an indelible document of our time, something like the “Newsreel” scenes from John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy. Trainees must memorise correct forms of address from a training manual, which informs them that it is unacceptable to ask “Why?” Like Karl Marx and Adam Smith, Machiavelli is one of those canonical thinkers who are much more widely quoted than read.

Walter Benjamin and Critical Theory Walter Benjamin is one of the most influential critical theorists of the early twentieth century. His writings include original theories of the state, fascism and revolution. In the first instalment of a new eight-part series, Andrew Robinson introduces Benjamin's approach, and outlines his methodology. By Andrew Robinson Walter Benjamin stands out as one of the leading theorists of the 1920s-30s wave of Marxist-inspired critical theorists. Like many of his generation, Benjamin writes from the standpoint of an outsider. Benjamin worked at the intersection of Marxist cultural theory with qabalah, a mystical variety of Jewish theology. Scholars and students are most likely to have come across Benjamin via one of his short works, such as “On the Concept of History”, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, “Critique of Violence”, or “The Task of the Translator”. Many of Benjamin’s works take the form of travelogues, in which he recounts his impressions of particular places.

Ralph Waldo Emerson As a teenager in 1960, Clyde Edgerton was trying to find a name for the doubts he was feeling about his conventional, small-town life in Bethesda, North Carolina. Then, a high school assignment offered up a tutor for life. Edgerton’s epiphany came while reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature”: The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should we not also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should we not have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? In Emerson, Edgerton found someone who let him know that questioning orthodox belief was not only acceptable, but vital. “Here was a writer who wrote about ideas—ideas that heated my blood,” Edgerton writes of Emerson. Edgerton’s testimonial seems all the more vivid because of its rarity. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Interview with Alan Moore It was no easy feat getting in touch with Alan Moore. For a man who’s not afraid to speak his mind, he doesn’t like publicity. But when you get him talking, he has much to say. Moore is one of the most influential living comic-book writers, and his work has defined modern superhero comics in ways that are so enfolded into the industry that it’s hard to parse them anymore. For over thirty years he has put out a continuous stream of comics, from superheroes to Jack the Ripper to erotica. Moore’s reimagining of Swamp Thing in the early 1980s made horror comics their own industry just when publishers had all but given up on a comic subgenre that had once been the cause of the now much-belied Comics Code. But Moore, at least by all indications, has put all that behind him, particularly his very public falling-out with DC Comics. —Peter Bebergal THE BELIEVER: How is Jerusalem coming along? BLVR: It’s rumored that it’s going to be a long book. AM: It’s over half a million. AM: No, that’s it.

Essays by Dana Gioia By DANA GIOIA One hundred years after her birth in Worcester, Mass., in 1911, Elizabeth Bishop stands as the most highly regarded American poet of the second-half of the 20th century. She is admired in every critical camp—from feminists to formalists—who agree on little else. Her work also attracts a wide general readership. Taught and studied in high schools and universities, Bishop is, for the time being at least, the most popular woman poet in American literature after Emily Dickinson. Such immense regard would have astounded the author. What makes her pre-eminence particularly remarkable is that she wrote so little. But what poems! Critics have a hard time describing the special quality of Bishop's poetry. What animates Bishop's poetry is the deep authenticity of a writer who knew exactly what she was and never tried to seem otherwise. One reason that Bishop's work feels so real is that most of it grew directly out of her life, though she characteristically presented it indirectly.

Dana Gioia Beautiful Failures: Nabokov and Flaubert’s Early Attempts A first novel is like spring lamb, tender and pink. Athenas that leap from the writer’s head armor-clad—Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” say—may not count. Better to find a novel that requires indulgence—Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise” or Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Débuts, even from much tougher writers, allow the reader to enjoy a guilty sense of paternalism: you protect débuts like Naipaul’s droll “Miguel Street,” or James’s thin “Daisy Miller,” or Coetzee’s compacted, miserable “Dusklands,” from the full force of your regular expectations. But then there are the real treasures, the rehearsals that never got published, the artifacts that invite you to reconstruct what an author wanted to do, before she did it. Even Vladimir Nabokov, the high priest of readerly hygiene, occasionally allowed himself this kind of communion. Now we have an invitation to root for the young Nabokov. We do know that he was trying to get a career started when he wrote the play.

History's 100 Geniuses of Language and Literature, Visualized by Maria Popova “Genius, in its writings, is our best path for reaching wisdom … the true use of literature for life.” “Genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly,” Victorian novelist Amelia E. Playing off Bloom’s use of the Sefirot image — the ten emanations of the Kabbalah — to organize the taxonomy of the one hundred geniuses of language he identifies, from Shakespeare to Stendhal to Lewis Carroll to Ralph Ellison, the visualization depicts the geographic origin, time period, and field of each “genius,” correlated with visits to the respective Wikipedia page and connection to related historical figures. Bloom writes: Appearing here is an exclusive English-language version of a forthcoming spread in Italian literary supplement La Lettura. {Click image to enlarge) At the heart of Bloom’s ambitious taxonomy is a concern with the very nature of genius: What is the relationship of fresh genius to a founding authority? Donating = Loving Share on Tumblr