There is an argument to be made that critically defining joy in literature is tough1. It shares a porous border with serenity, ecstasy, and exclamation. Like laughter, like a phantasmagorical skunk rummaging through our lives, it flees from a certain kind of exegesis. As well it should. You can consult other quick fire points of reference — like Ross Gay talking about how “It is joy by which the labor that will make the life that I want, possible” or Whitman reminding us that “If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles” — but to what end? Neither of these examples are necessarily your personal nebula-like structure by which these figurative stars are born. They are not — in and of themselves — the ‘generative environment.’
But there is a counter-argument to be made that joy in literature is remarkably easy to achieve — and that it’s an easy argument to make, too, because what is an aesthetic choice if not a decision inextricably bound up with a certain kind of joy? Creation is a gift. When we’re moved to sing along with a song, when we’re moved to surprised laughter at a decision made, when we underline sentences like —
Reluctantly, in a cloud of patchouli, Jason stepped out onto the sidewalk. (Pynchon, Inherent Vice)
Little half moons clustered underneath her cheekbones, like faint hoofmarks. (Morrison, Jazz)
In Paris we eat brains at night. (Moore, Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?)
— who are we in that moment if not ripples in the water returning to the stone?
A QUIET WEEK AT BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO: numerous things are in the works, but you’ll have to sate yourselves with this wonderful conversation with Todd Dillard about three poems he wrote for HAD for now. (Don’t forget we’re always posting interesting things we find every day, too, like this terrific lecture Terrance Hayes gave in 2019.)
“Words Without Borders seeks a Books Editor for its digital magazine of international literature. This remote, part-time freelance position pays $400/month and works closely with the magazine’s editors to commission and edit monthly reviews of new literature in translation, plus one additional long-form essay on a quarterly basis. This is a remote position requiring approximately 20 hours/month.”