Jhumpa Lahiri sits down with The New Yorker and reveals how she grew up reading Little Women, her own mysterious relationship to writing, and the importance of taking her time when it comes to her process.
“The key is to try to understand the elements that are failing and why. And then you move to the next draft with a little bit more clarity. Because of that, when I do write the 949th flawed draft that leads to the 950th successful one, it’s a matter of analyzing the flaws.“
For the final Bookmark This of the year, the PEN Center USA staff selected books to give even the most discerning people. From your too-cheerful aunt to your male friend with relationship problems, they’ve got you covered. And don’t forget to chime in with your own humorous book ideas below.
This week’s Bookmark features an essay from the Bennington Writing Seminar’s faculty blog “From the Vortex” by author Dinah Lenney tackling the age old question, “Why do we write?” In her thoughtful essay titled "Singing Lessons," the creative nonfiction author writes about the sometimes safe choices we make when writing, only sticking to what we know, never taking a risk.
“Not so long ago, in a classroom in L.A., I asked a group of students, 'Off the top of your heads, why do you write?' 'It’s a compulsion,' said one. 'It’s my job,' said another. Several expressed the desire 'to reach a reader.' Two insisted they use language to make sense of their lives. But it was the guy sitting just across the table who got to me: 'Why do I write?' he said. 'Because I can’t sing.'
Which made me laugh and remember and consider: who thinks she can? Who’s that sure of herself? Be suspicious of her, that’s what I’m saying. Be suspicious of any artist—singer, painter, writer—who doesn’t doubt herself; who isn’t willing to risk what she knows and engage with what she doesn’t every time.”
Read the rest of the essay here.
For more on Lenney, click here.
In this week’s Writers’ Reel, listen to author David Sedaris as he reads from his hilarious essay “SantaLand Diaries,” about his stint as a Macy’s elf. The essay is part of his classic collection titled Holidays on Ice.
Listen and get in to the holiday spirit!
This year, PEN Center USA presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Joan Didion at the 23rd Literary Awards Festival. The acclaimed essayist and author of groundbreaking novels The Year of Magical Thinking, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, just to name a few, is a literary legend. Today marks the celebrated writer’s 79th birthday. Wish her a happy birthday by reading 15 of her essays, collected on The Electric Typewriter site.
C. S. Lewis wrote more than thirty books, including the much-beloved children's series The Chronicles of Narnia. In honor of what would have been the author’s birthday last week, watch this great doodle depicting one of Lewis’s final essays, titled “We Have No (Unlimited) Right to Happiness,” where the author considers the issue of sexual morality.
“When two people achieve lasting happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also—I must put it crudely—good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people.”
“If we establish a "right to (sexual) happiness" which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it.”
To read the full essay, click here.
Long regarded as Los Angeles’s unofficial poet laureate, poet Wanda Coleman passed away this week at 67. Her words and life touched many in the literary community. Watch her speak about writing poetry and read from her work as part of the Poetry.LA interview series.
“I had to write around the edges. I had to find times when it was quiet. When I was a single parent, I could get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and maybe I’ll have two to three hours to write. I hated to have my time wasted standing in line at the bank, at the post office, getting ready to pay for my groceries. I had that notebook out, making notes for poems.”