Punctuation as Art, the Writer’s Obligation, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today's stories:

Novelist and memoirist Paul Lisicky discusses his favorite passage in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Revelation,” and why she subjects her characters to destruction in order for them to emerge better: “O’Connor shatters her characters so they can see.” Lisicky’s latest memoir, The Narrow Door, is out this month from Graywolf Press. (Atlantic

At the Smart Set, writer Michael Lind looks at the century-old shift from poetry intended to be heard to the focus on poetry intended to be seen, taught, and analyzed, and argues for a renewed interest in the performative powers of the form.

Durham University researchers in the U.K. recently discovered that fairy tales including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rumpelstiltskin” trace back four thousand years. Other findings include folk tales that date back even farther; a story called “The Smith and the Devil” was estimated to date back six thousand years. The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal. (BBC News)

What would Moby-Dick look like without words? A graphic designer from Chicago removed every word, leaving only punctuation marks, from classic books—including Moby-Dick and Pride and Prejudice—to create a series of posters titled Between the Words. The punctuation appears in one continuous, circular line, in the same order as it appears in each book. (Wired)

A previously unpublished manuscript by late writer and film director Orson Welles reveals the disdain he had for his “sometimes friend” Ernest Hemingway’s “macho enthusiasms” and portrayals of Spanish culture, particularly those depicted in Hemingway’s novels The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon. (Guardian)

“If someone’s asking you to comment on the state of the world, it’s hard not to say what you believe. But that isn’t the writer’s job, which is, to paraphrase Faulkner, to write. Many writers—myself included—attempt to solve this quandary by telling themselves that writing truthfully and well…is itself a political act; that, to quote another of history’s most eloquent radicals, ‘the truth will set you free.’” Writers Zoë Heller and Francine Prose discuss whether a writer’s responsibility is only to his or her art, or to a higher cause. (New York Times)

Some of your favorite novelists may be moonlighting as television writers this year. Electric Literature lists novelists who are signed on to write for TV in 2016, including Noah Hawley, author of 1998’s A Conspiracy of Tall Men, who will be writing for FX’s Fargo.