No, Lebron James doesn’t have anything to do with Best American Essays 2014. But this year’s version is brought to you by Pulphead’s own John Jeremiah Sullivan. And he opens the collection with an essay of his own—republished here, on The New Yorker’s website—in which he makes the case that the earliest English-language essayist was none other than King James I. Yes, that King James, of the KJV Bible, of whom JJS writes, “We may imagine him as a stuffed robe-and-crown who gives a thumbs-up to the Authorized Version and fades into muffled bedchambers, but James was a serious man of letters. He fashioned himself so and was one, in truth.” (That’s an image above from James’ Essayes of a prentise, in the divine art of poesie, the very book that earns the King this extra claim to fame, showcasing “early shape poetry.”)
Book events should always include live owls, full stop.
Jeff VanderMeer has been one busy guy since Acceptance, the final installment of the Southern Reach trilogy, pubbed in September. This spectacular photo (courtesy Kyle Cassidy) is from Jeff’s visit to Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, but he’s done readings all over the east coast and we’re running out of fingers to count all the wonderful reviews that have come in.
FSG Originals Series alumnus John Darnielle has had a very good week.
His novel Wolf in White Van launched on Monday night with John Hodgman and a house packed with fans at Le Poisson Rouge (believe us, reader, when we say fans—we were there for the tears and the hugs as John signed books afterwards); the book pub’d on Tuesday; yesterday John’s pretty deep and intense conversation with Terry Gross went live on NPR’s Fresh Air; and last night we got the news that Wolf was longlisted for the National Book Award.
It’s a surprise, of course, but also not. This novel is, in the words of Claire Vaye Watkins, “savage genius gone free range . . . absolutely fucking brilliant.” It should win all of the awards.
Doomsday approacheth! Or, rather, has been on the horizon since 1993, when Lighthouse Digest Magazine created the Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses. These structures, once essential navigational aids—not to mention cultural landmarks, symbolic touchstones—are in danger of disappearing from coastlines around the world. In his wonderfully Sebaldian Op-Ed for the New York Times, Jeff VanderMeer writes about the mysterious and endangered “attracters of ghost stories, smugglers’ tales and shipwrecks,” and makes a somewhat qualified argument for their preservation and restoration, particularly as it applies to his own local lighthouse (doesn’t everyone have one?), The St. Marks Lighthouse in northern Florida.
There is also a selfish part of me, the part that likes to be off the edge of the map, that feels the damaged lighthouse is somehow more authentic than the one that will be created through restoration. This is a place that has survived hurricanes, Confederate bombings, the constant threat of erosion. It has always been on the edge of being snuffed out. That is its natural state—and the entropy against which each lighthouse keeper fought, night after night, before there were no more lighthouse keepers.
If you missed last week’s Originals Series with Catherine Lacey, Sasha Frere-Jones, and Isaac Fitzgerald at Interstate, we have to say: you really biffed it.
Catherine Lacey sticks it to the reporters and reviewers who assume “novelists are just a blink and a name away from their narrators.” It’s a nice (not to mention important and articulate and kind of sassy) reminder of the project of fiction, and why we all continue to love it so much. Read the whole piece, “A Need to Disappear,” here, at BuzzFeed.
Etgar Keret, who lives in Tel Aviv with his family, admits that when he started writing this piece—originally published in Israel, now in the LA Times—he “found it hard to write an article on peace without feeling like an idiot, or at the very least, like someone completely cut off from reality.”
And that was before the current situation in Gaza erupted. The urgency and the predictability of the latest conflagration caused him to reconsider the very basis of how he had come to think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If peace is so hopelessly unachievable, maybe it’s time to give up on “peace.” Time to find a more honest way to frame things. It’s a simple, reasonable, maybe even hopeful proposal for a situation that rarely inspires such adjectives. Give it a read.