Tangential Required Reading: Meghan O’Rourke on John Ashbery

One of the ancillary pleasures of the Literary Seminar is learning which writers “our” writers are reading. Whether inspired by the topic or our locale, or whether it is simply coincidental, trends inevitably emerge to offer a sort of tangential required reading list. Most pleasing to my mind, last week, were the references to poet John Ashbery, a 2003 alum of the Seminar, made separately by Ann Beattie, Maggie Nelson, and Edmund White. As an unabashed fan and former student of Ashbery’s, I always enjoy a discussion of his work, and lament the reputation of “difficulty” which is often attached to it. One more reason, then, to be excited about this weekend’s session, is Meghan O’Rourke, whose “How to read John Ashbery”, from Slate in 2005, peels away this reputation in one of the most refreshing, graceful, and charming discussions of Ashbery’s work in recent times. You can catch O’Rourke in discussion with Billy Collins and Kevin Young on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon (free and open to the public) with Daniel Menaker, Nell Freudenberger, Silas House, and Tayari Jones. –Arlo Haskell (Sand Paper Press), KWLS stage manager

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