What I Read This Week - 3rd February

When we get to February it seems like summer is again possible, though not yet very likely. - How to Write Like a Mother#^@%*& (Elissa Bassist interviews Cheryl Strayed at Creative Nonfiction)

When I say, “Success is a pile of shit somebody stacked up real high,” I mean it’s folly to measure your success in money or fame. Success in the arts can be measured only by your ability to say yes to this question: “Did I do the work I needed to do, and did I do it like a motherfucker?”

- MLA 2013 (Alva Edwards at n+1)

I find, paper after paper, that the good ones, the ones I perceive to be good, are in fact incredibly difficult to follow. I tell people afterwards, “Good paper,” but I hope to God we don’t talk any more about it. I don’t want to reveal that I didn’t know what it was about.

Then I think that we might all just come out, just come clean, and say, “We didn’t understand.” We might get somewhere.

- Going Soft (Nathan Deuel at The Paris Review)

The world was so big! It could take a lifetime and no matter how hard you tried you’d never really know it all and yet you might pretend, in your small corner, as I did, to have had some idea of what really mattered.

- The Poetics of Football (Ariel Lewiton at The Paris Review)

I love the precision of language required to speak with any insight or depth about sports. When I figure skated I took pride in listing the jumps, not only because I could land most of them (sloppy, single versions of them) but for the sound of them and the sense that naming them made me an insider: lutz, toe-loop, flip, axel, salchow. In hockey we talked about face-offs, neutral zones, hat tricks, slap shots. My friends who play or watch tennis have their aces and deuces, their lets, sets, and rallies.

- Diary: Google Invades (Rebecca Solnit at the London Review of Books)

The whole of the US sometimes seems to be a checkerboard of these low-pressure zones with lots of time and space but no money, and the boomtowns with lots of money, a frenzied pace and chronic housing scarcity. Neither version is very liveable.

- Post These Letters, Jeeves. Thanks, Old Bean. (Dwight Garner reviews ‘P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters’ in The New York Times)

His portraits of the famous are sometimes terrific. H. G. Wells, at a lunch, “sat looking like a crushed rabbit.” Wodehouse groaned at the enormous fireplace in Wells’s house, with letters carved around it that spelled: “TWO LOVERS BUILT THIS HOUSE.” He later, mockingly, put a similar fireplace in one of his Wooster novels.