The Sunday Post for January 10, 2016

Bonfire of the Inanities

Where goes the style section, goes us all. Jacqui Shine examines the history of the "lighter" side of the news.

Women’s news was the opposite of important, with close ties to so-called yellow journalism. Joseph Pulitzer is credited with developing women’s news largely as a means of attracting new readers and, in turn, new advertisers. When Pulitzer bought the New York World in 1883, the paper had already had a “woman’s news” (as they called it) department for over twenty years. Women’s news, such as it was, included articles devoted to beauty, fashion, and domestic life. When Oscar Wilde was appointed the new editor of The Lady’s World in 1887, he noted that women’s periodicals took as their subject “merely what women wear,” not, as he hoped his magazine would, “what they think, and what they feel.” (He promptly changed the magazine’s name to The Woman’s World.)
Should Art Grants Be Awarded to Artists Who Don't Need the Money? (Worm Can Opened.)

The wonderful Jen Graves goes deep, and gets people on the phone, to talk about whether it matters that artists who don't need the money get grants intended to help support artists who need help. Yes, this is about David Shields, as Paul covered earlier. But it's also about this deceptively tricky question: should income be considered as a factor when deciding whether to award cash grants to artists?

The Blunt Instrument: What Is Fiction For?

Shhhh. There is no other literary advice column in the world but ours. This is something different. A fine, good something different.

Teju Cole once said, “A good novel shouldn’t have a point.” His own novel Open City illustrates this beautifully—I can’t boil it down to one or two abstractions; it’s about too many things. In the past couple of years I’ve read a few novels (or started and abandoned, as the case may be) that felt very top-down in their construction, as though the author decided what the point of the book was first, and then wrote it. I don’t care if authors do this, but as a reader, I want to feel like I’m discovering what the book is about as I read it; I don’t want to know from page one (or worse, sooner—sometimes all the blurbs and epigraphs make it clear what a book is about before you even start it).
Young Iris

John Updike writes about a biography of Iris Murdoch (an aside: I know I live in the moment because my mind keeps renaming him John Updog). Updike writes about writing about Murduch, and we must catalog all writing about Murdoch here. It's in our mandate.

Her published novels began sharp, terse, angular, and blithely enigmatic, on the French model of Queneau, and she ended as one of the most expansive and leisurely expositors since the Victorians. Her early mode achieved its masterpiece in “A Severed Head,” which I remember being passed around among young suburban couples in the early sixties as a species of news. This news—that we tend to love, that love is ambient and uncontrollable and comically, cruelly protean—never grew stale for her, though for the reader the filaments she spun from this centrifuge could feel, even in the best of her late books, like “The Sea, the Sea” and “The Philosopher's Pupil,” like cotton candy. Her characters make an exclusive diet of one another; she once defined happiness as “to be utterly absorbed in at least six other human beings.”