When Audrey Munson was born—on June 8, 1891, to Katherine and Edgar Munson, in Rochester, New York—her life was expected to take the typical course of the life of a woman born in a rural area at that time. She was to grow up with strong morals, in a righteous family, receiving a cursory amount of education. When the time was right, she was to marry an eligible man and become the head of her own household, leading a simple life focused on the upkeep of family, hearth, and home. America was taking shape on the backs of women who followed these ideals.
But there was another option, perhaps best embodied in Theodore Dreiser’s 1900 novel Sister Carrie, in which Dreiser’s heroine lives a life of moral ambiguity as a rural woman who makes her way to the city, where she becomes a mistress and an actress. Like Carrie, Audrey was destined for a fate crueler and stranger than that prescribed for a woman of her era.
Read more in The Believer’s Summer 2015 issue!
“I like putting really long silences into my plays. Crazy stuff happens during silences at the theater. The audience suddenly becomes aware of itself, and a little weirded out and uncomfortable, and maybe someone coughs and whispers, but if the silence goes on long enough eventually people adjust to it and get kind of comfortable and zen and find their own way back into the reality of the play. And that moment—when an entire audience is relaxed and breathless together in a silence, when time slows down and then starts to speed up again—is very magical to me.”
Annie Baker’s Author’s Note for her play BODY AWARENESS
“So far as he is serious, the artist is continually tempted to sever the dialogue he has with an audience. Silence is the furthest extension of that reluctance to communicate, that ambivalence about making contact with the audience which is a leading motif of modern art, with its tireless commitment to the “new” and/or the “esoteric” Silence is the artist’s ultimate other-worldly gesture; by silence, he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, audience, antagonist, arbiter, and distorter of his work.”
“Committed to the idea that the power of art is located in its power to negate, the ultimate weapon in the artist’s inconsistent war with his audience is to verge closer and closer to silence. The sensory or conceptual gap between the artist and his audience, the space of the missing or ruptured dialogue, can also constitute the grounds for an ascetic affirmation. Samuel Beckett speaks of “my dream of an art unresentful of its insuperable indigence and too proud for the farce of giving and receiving.” But there is no abolishing a minimal transaction, a minimal exchange of gifts, just as there is no talented and rigorous asceticism that doesn’t produce a gain (rather than a loss) in the capacity for pleasure.”
“Silence is a prophecy, one which the artist’s actions can be understood as attempting to fulfill and to reverse.”
The Swedish Academy gave English readers a gift in 2014 when they awarded Patrick Modiano the Nobel Prize in literature.
Up until that point, only about three of his novels had been translated into English–four if you count some very rare editions (priced well above $100) that Ring Roads published in the 70’s and early 80’s in England.
Now, however, its a good time to become a Modiano completest. Since he received the award there have been four new publications of his works, including one collection of three novellas. Eight more will be published in the next year.
Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize and you should read him!
Summer goals: make this website into a Squarespace portfolio, link out to a Tumblr not under my own name.
Which is to say that as an official writer website, this is a work in progress.
Elisabeth Donnelly is the coauthor of THE MISSHAPES, the first book in a kickass YA superhero trilogy (it opens with a Pulp quote, so you know it’s good). She and Stu Sherman write under the pseudonym Alex Flynn. Elisabeth is constantly giving me amazing book recs that I never would’ve found on my own, and her book crush–a National Book Award nominated surf-noir that served as the inspiration for Point Break–does not disappoint:
read it, read it!
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I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I’m selling? No. Do I know what I’m doing today? No. But I’m here, and I’m gonna give it my best shot.
An impossible assignment from a kind email: “try to be cool with the uncertainty.”
Why it is a boring time to be a cultural journalist in some ways: it’s because culture is migrating to the whims of the internet, which is its own set of desires. No more are you advocating for truly excellent works of art, human stories of triumph and perseverance — rather, it’s the crowd’s urges taking you down a slipstream of thoughts, and it’s very difficult to get anything beyond those ideas. It basically turns everything into niches, but you have to be sitting at the cool kids’ table, or your niche of choice simply doesn’t exist. Especially if it caters towards adults (oh god, I’m A.O. Scott, but it’s true).
Imagine how many articles you’d read about UnREAL, which is great, if it was on HBO. Seriously. It is a show that’s sort of discombobulating to watch because it’s on Lifetime.
There are some parallels to be made with Nell Zink and Emily Dickinson.