Walt Whitman’s guide to health and better living, the grudge narratives of LIGO scientists, and Lord Byron’s apocalyptic poetry. Plus: Hulu adapts The Handmaid’s Tale for the small screen, and Catherine Nichols explores the character adaptability that makes a novel addictive: “The adaptation technique isn’t just an efficient way of telegraphing psychological depth; it hits the reader like rock n’ roll.”
“Above my desk is this line from Wallace Stevens: ‘In the world of words / Imagination is one of / The forces of nature.’ I think of the city that way—it’s a force of nature. It can enrapture you with its pulsing marquees or literally blow broken glass in your face. Where I live especially, the wind blows, and it’s either the smell of chocolate (from a nearby factory) or sewage. A stranger starts talking to you and you don’t know how to feel—you are guarded, but then you are friendly. You love this and you hate this. You are tired because it’s hard, and you feel strong because it is. And anxiety pulses beneath all of this, it (here we go with Heidegger) wakes you up to yourself, and in the very best situation, it makes you remember that you are the city.”
Today, when I read student work that relies on a clever conceit—such as a piece of fiction that is, ultimately, an elaborate joke; when I read stories that are technically functional but devoid of insights, I cringe. I prefer a piece that is overly sentimental but that is trying to get at something true to the undergraduate’s experience, such as love, longing, heartbreak.
The after-effect of the force of the archive is a kind of ghosting: it hints too uncannily at history reified, at history returned to the present. The voice is physically indexed, it leaves a residue in a way it simply can’t in the ordination of the library. Nowhere can one feel this more than in the archives of poetry read aloud, that most ephemeral event.