BURN PILE: Smell, taste, death obsession, medieval books, sentence destruction, and how our romanticization of rejection may forgive prejudice in publishing


In an article that flirts with Whorpianisma writer at The Atlantic points out how our vocabulary when it comes to the sense of smell is woefully lacking. "All of our other scent descriptors are really descriptions of sources: We say that things smell like cinnamon, or roses, or teen spirit, or napalm in the morning." From The Atlantic (with only one Apocalypse Now reference.)

Smell and taste are linked, I've heard and transitions are hard. An article that starts with a mother's funeral and Seamus Heaney's potatoes, and talks about food in literature: "People talk too much about the writing of old white men, but if you could never taste again, it is Hemingway who could tell you about food." From The Irish Times.

On my bookshelf, a space will always be reserved for a book I purchased called "Death in The Grand Canyon," when I was twelve and wanted more than anything to alarm my parents. In the New York Times Magazine, a writer recommends this "series" to their upper-crust readership. "Over the years, deaths from clashes with Native Americans give way to deaths from dehydration suffered by lost, hallucinating hippies. All the while, human nature remains constant: People (particularly, it must be said, young male people) walk too close to the edge — often literally." From the New York Times.

If you were at a cocktail party – young and rubicund as you are – and someone asked you the manner in which you'd like to die, would your answer be as good as the following? 

"Skydiving while high on heroin for the second time (because you want to have fun the first time, according to a colleague)." 

In an essay that becomes a lot less fun but much more interesting, a writer explores the reasons behind our preferences for certain sorts of death. From the Wilson Quartley.

A history of books and the mechanisms of locating salient information: "And so tools were developed to help the reader do just that, such as page numbers, running titles, and indices. As familiar as these aids may be, they are older than you think." From Medieval Books.

If you want to read someone pithily pick apart first sentences from cherry-picked volumes, I have the article from you. Regarding Rick Moody's Hotels of North America: A Novel and it's first sentence, the critic has this to say: "With every new book of his, we in the reviewing business hope that Moody will give us reason to overturn Dale Peck’s judgment that he’s the 'worst writer of his generation,' but this novel, narrated in the form of hotel reviews by a divorced alcoholic father, doesn’t look like the one." From Vulture.

And finally, Kativa Das for The Atlantic takes those of us who romanticize writers overcoming rejection. Using an anecdote that ran in the Guardian regarding  Marlon James and how his first novel was rejected eighty times, Das points out the whimsy we afford these stories overlooks the insidious prejudices that exist in the publishing industry: "Not only is it harder for writers of color to get published, but when rejecting our work, publishers tell us that what we’re writing about is too narrow and niche and won’t appeal to mainstream audiences. It’s hard not to perceive this as both a rejection of the relevance of our work as well as ourselves." From the Atlantic.