Among the many fine pieces in the new Bookforum—and as Wyatt Mason reminds us, there’s still plenty of serious literary criticism being done—is an interview with Ron Hansen, who talks about (among other things) what drew him to writing about the West: “Part of it was that I thought the western seemed loaded with potential to tell us who we are now but had fallen on hard times with its melodrama and clichés of character and plot. I hoped to take the typical outlaw narratives as seriously as Shakespeare took Holinshed’s Chronicles and to find in the West of the nineteenth century some genetic markers for our present condition.”
If you’re studying alcoholism in American literature, you have plenty to work with: The Amherst Bulletin reports on an upcoming UMass continuing-ed course featuring Robert Louis Stevenson, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Yates, and more. (via)
Oddest goodie-bag gift ever: To thank John Irving for showing up, the Guardian Hay festival is bringing in a Greco-Roman wrestling champ, so the novelist-wrestler could get in a workout.
The Independent sits down with Gore Vidal, still snippy about his reputation:
“Mailer once said that ‘Vidal lacks the wound.’ What do you think he was referring to: the fact that your grandfather was a senator? Your privileged upbringing?”
“Privileged? You mean more privileged than a fat boy from South Africa,” Vidal snaps [Mailer’s father was born in Cape Town] “with a doting mother?”