Some things I've been reading recently:
An interview with Jonathan Galassi, the publishing head of Farrar Straus Giroux and himself a poet and a translator of Italian poetry, on reading, writing, editing and publishing, and on the history of one of English-language publishing's most influential firms. Among the points on which I agree most emphatically with Galassi is when he talks of the pleasure that ensues when a manuscript is typeset: "I always feel that when you put a book into proofs it gets better just by virtue of being set in print. I know a lot of writers feel that way too. It takes on a kind of permanence. And then it's even more satisfying when it becomes an actual book." And on the subject what he looks out for most in a novel: "I think the voice is the most important thing—and then the shape."
"After Making Love We Hear Footsteps", a very funny and tender poem by Galway Kinnell about a child ("Fergus") whom—and this is a wonderful phrase—"habit of memory propels to the ground of his making"
"The Last Writes", an essay by DJ Taylor about how there is neither the money or the space in British literary life any more to sustain a career as a full-time book reviewer. I always like pieces about the nuts and bolts of the trade (who pays what sums, how much time it took someone to spin something out, who earned what when), and read this piece with special interest not just because I occasionally write for the British press, but also because I've managed for a few years to make a modest living (actually a very fine living if we understand the word as "existence" and not as "income") from the very profession whose diminishing wages Taylor mourns. Hmm—I wonder how much time I have left on my clock.
"The Perils Of Writing A Life Of Gore Vidal", a very entertaining account of running into trouble with one's biographical subject by Fred Kaplan ("Vidal's pride, one of the leitmotifs of his life, frequently compared to that of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, required that a biography be published while he still lived. If Norman Mailer already had two or three versions of his life published or in process, Vidal argued, why should he not have at least one? My argument that he should follow the example of Mark Twain, who insisted that his biography not be published before his death, met firm resistance.) I have on my desk right now, waiting for a week in which all other things fall silent or go on vacation, two fat new literary biographies of nineteenth-century greats: Michael Slater's biography of Charles Dickens and Joseph Frank's monumental study of Fyodor Dostoevesky, in an abridged version that is still about a thousand pages long.
"These Poems Are The End For Me", a set of poems in Hindi translation in the new issue of the literary magazine Pratilipi by the late Marathi and English writer Dilip Chitre, who passed away recently. Chitre's essay "The Practice of Marathi Poetry" is here.