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Posted inArt

The Pre-Tabloid Art of 19th-Century Crime

People have always loved a good lurid story, the more complicated by family twists and accented by violence the better. Back in the 19th century, thousands of chapbooks were printed in Spain and England that chronicled grisly crimes and romantic intrigue for the public, and since a large part of the population was illiterate, there were always great images to catch the curious eye.

Posted inBooks

Booze Muse: Kingsley Amis, the Laureate of Hangovers

Here is a fun literary experiment: substitute the words ill or illness in Virginia Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill” (1930) with the words hung-over and hangover . It works, right? “Hangover is the great confessional”; “In a hangover words seem to possess a mystic quality”; “Incomprehensibility has an enormous power over us in a hangover.” And so on. But the best bit is this: “To hinder the description of hangover in literature, there is the poverty of the language. English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache.”

Posted inArt

When I Hear the Word Poetry, I Reach for My Frequent Flyer Miles

AWP, or the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (that’s actually AWWP, but we’ll let that slide), is billed as an annual celebration of authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers and small press publishers. Every year these bibliophile masses descend on a North American city (Chicago, this year) to promote, mingle, fraternize, frolic, freak out, fight, deal, dole and drink. The book fair is the centerpiece, the polestar of the conference; a nerve-jouncing nerve center of tables and stalls and booths tucked away in the belly of the Chicago Hilton hotel on South Michigan Ave.

Posted inBooks

Flying Forward into the Zone

Varamo is only the sixth novel by the Argentinian writer César Aira to be made available in English, but the premise already sounds like an Aira-parody: one night in Panama in 1923, a government employee without a literary bone in his body composes a future masterpiece of Central American poetry and, as often happens, never writes another word again.

Posted inArt

A Novel Through the Eyes of Van Gogh’s Doctor

Written from the perspective of Dr. Gachet, Vincent van Gogh’s physician, Carol Wallace’s Leaving Van Gogh is the fictional story of the famous painter’s final months in the French town of Auvers. Based on 902 letters exchanged between Van Gogh and his family and friends, the novel paints the picture of a brilliant but tormented artist who alternates between captivating and scaring those closest to him. About to embark on the book tour, Wallace took the time to share her thoughts on Vincent van Gogh, mental illness and the joy of writing about painting.