Asymptote’s new Fall issue is replete with spectacular writing. See what our section editors have to say about the pieces closest to their hearts:
As writer-readers, we’ve all been there before. Who of us hasn’t been faced with that writer whose words have made us stay up late into the night; or start the book over as soon as we’re done; or after finally savoring that last word, weep—for all the words already written and that would never to be yours. The feeling is unmistakeable, physical. In her essay, “Animal in Outline,” Mireia Vidal-Conte describes this gut feeling after finishing El porxo de les mirades (The Porch of the Gazes) by Miquel de Palol: “What are we doing? I thought. What are we writing? What have we read, what have we failed to read, before sitting down in front of a blank sheet of paper? What does and doesn’t deserve readers?” There are the books that make you never want to stop writing, and the books that never make you want to write another word (in the best way possible, of course). Vidal-Conte reminds writers again that none of us is without context—for better or for worse. Her essay is smart, playful, honest, and a must-read from this issue.
—Ah-reum Han, Writers on Writers Editor
One sad summer—possibly in 2010—I came across Vivian Gornick’s The Men in my Life. The book’s premise is simple. Gornick’s essays, written with characteristic clarity and poise, profile writers such as such as H.G. Wells, Loren Eiseley, and James Baldwin. From works and lives so very diverse, Gornick discerns one common thread: loathing, especially of the self, was often a potent inspiration. Loneliness, too.
The book’s title is less playful—and more literal—than one might think. Gornick’s men here are not just any men, nor just any literary men. They are, indeed, the men in her life. Each of her essays resounds as a conversation between two minds; the kind of conversation that doesn’t so much blur the distinction between life and letters as it nullifies the need for it. The book, for me, sparked a lasting fascination with essays by writers on writers—the very best of which open up the conversation to a third party, a sort of kindly voyeur: the reader.
And then a friend introduced me to Asymptote, an online journal with a whole section devoted to precisely that format. What better way to introduce writers little known in the Anglophone world than through the unique voice of another? However intimate the relationship between a writer and their mentor, colleague, rival, or translator, and however close or far apart they may be in age or geography—publishing these essays in English exposes these networks of admiration and craft, revealing tantalizing lines of further inquiry and further reading. READ MORE…