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Exploring Books Through Articles, Reviews, Announcements, & Lists 2020

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Jan 2, 3:38pm Top

2020: New year, new articles, reviews, etc.

Jan 2, 3:45pm Top


Edited: Jan 2, 9:47pm Top

I started Exploring Books through Articles, Reviews, Announcements & Lists in 2019 with TLS, so for 2020, I'll start with articles I found interesting in the TLS for Jan. 1, 2020. TLS articles are paywalled, but selected articles in the current issue can be read w/out a subscription.

Tales of reconstruction - Some nominations for out-of-print books that deserve to be rediscovered and republished. Other than the Kipling collection I wasn't familiar with the nominations. Of particular interest for me was Stuart Kelly's piece on Mr. Never-Lost, a 1933 book from his childhood he has never been able to find in the second hand bookshops. The eponymous hero " is a strange creature, with a curved nose that reaches his feet, and which he uses to trundle around his spherical home (hence his never being lost)."

In other TLS reviews of interest: Mark Kamine on 2 books about Harvey Weinstein -- Amy Hawkins on Jonathan Chatwin's Beijing travel book Long Peace Street -- Elaine Showalter on 2 biographies of E. Nesbit, the children's author -- John J. Winters on Patti Smith's memoir of loss, Year of the Monkey -- Paul Binding's review of Echoes of the City, a recent translation from the Norwegian, the first volume of a trilogy -- and Lucasta Miller on Turgenev's Spring Torrents.

Edited: Jan 2, 5:00pm Top

It really would help if you defined your abbreviations.

Transport Layer Security
Thread Local Storage
Toulouse, France (Airport Code)
Transparent LAN
Total Least Squares
Two Level Systems
Threaded Locking System
Translucent Liquid Sculpey
Trinity Lutheran School
Top Level Specification
Three Line Scanner
Transmission Line Speaker
Training for Learning and Serving
The Love Shack
Truck Load Services
Tiverton Library Services
The Lost Sombrero

Oh, and why are you talking about Jan 1, 2019?

Jan 2, 9:49pm Top

I believe "TLS" is the official name of the publication; try clicking on the link. Thanks for the correction re date; I intended 2020 of course.

Jan 2, 10:21pm Top

I enjoyed your thread last year, thanks for continuing!

Jan 3, 4:03pm Top

>4 MarthaJeanne: aka (or perhaps fka) the Times Literary Supplement

Jan 4, 11:57am Top

Two pieces from the New Yorker:

Hua Hsu. The New Yorker, Jan 4. 2020: The Asian-American Canon Breakers. An "identity" cultural-literary movement from the early 1970s. Conflict between cultural-identity progressives of the time and writers about the immigrant experience like Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan (or, for that matter, the TV series Fresh off the boat). I remember reading a bit from Aiiieeeee! when it first came out, but the movement had receded into the background by the time I got around to reading The Woman Warrior. I'm rather naive politically so the potential subversion of the progressive critique didn't occur to me & I wasn't aware of the background dialog going on at the time.

Mary Norris. The New Yorker, Jan. 2., 2020: An Instant Classic About Learning Ancient Greek. Reminds me that I have a tutorial on the topic floating around in the Cloud I never got around to.

Jan 4, 11:58am Top

Thanks for the feedback!

Jan 8, 11:41am Top

What's your top 10?

Ani Katz. The Guardian, 01/08/2020. Top 10 books about toxic masculinity.

Jan 8, 11:48am Top

Librarians in WWII (got this link from ALA Direct}:

Kathy Peiss. Time, Jan. 3, 2020: Why the U.S. Sent Librarians Undercover to Gather Intelligence During World War II.

Jan 8, 12:24pm Top

This is from late last year, but I've only discovered it recently. Caution: it is very long -- old school New Yorker long -- a travel piece focusing on the recent Nobel Prize winner's controversial writing on the Bosnian war.

John Erik Riley. LitHub, 12/19/2019: Ignoble: On the Trail of Peter Handke’s Bosnian Illusions. Riley is a Norwegian writer & publisher. He is the editor of Handke-debatten, a 679 page anthology on the topic of Handke's writings on Serbia. Interesting to learn that Karl Ove Knausgard (My Struggle) was Handke's publisher and defender. Riley compares Handke to William T. Vollmann (who comes out sounding a lot better than Handke, & was a reminder to me to revisit some of Vollmann's books -- which are also pretty long).

Jan 8, 12:27pm Top

Elizabeth Wurzel recently died age 52. Many obits & tributes. Here's one from The Atlantic:

Debora Kopaken. The Atlantic, 1/7/2020: The Glorious, Messy Life of Liz Wurtzel.

Edited: Jan 10, 3:53pm Top

This week's TLS (Jan. 10, 2020). Paywalled, but some articles from the latest issues are free. These caught my eye:

Sean O'brien. Got rid. A non-hoarder walks us through the weeding of his book collection of titles he will never get around to reading. Not my philosophy, but to each his-her-their own.

Malise Ruthven. Finding the way: the disputed concept of Sharia. A review of two books, Understanding Sharia: Islamic Law in a Globalised World by Raficq S. Abdulla & Mohamed Keshavjee; What is Sharia? by Baudouin Dupret.

Sanam Maher. Thinly veiled: Shifting perceptions of Muslim women in the West. Review of two books: From victims to suspects: Muslim women since 9/11 by Shakira Hussein; It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim women on faith, feminism, sexuality and race Mariam Khan, editor.

Jeet Thayil. Chronicles of deaths foretold: Rereading Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

Gavin Jacobson. The light of a few candles: Essays on the gothic half of post-1989 modernity. Review of My Seditious Heart by Arundhati Roy. Clocking in at 1K pages, this book collects the novelist's journalism. Quote: “Far from being antagonistic forces that represented Old and New India”, Roy writes, economic deregulation and religious bigotry “were actually lovers performing an elaborate ritual of seduction and coquetry that could sometimes be misread as hostility”.

Other reviews/essays of note: India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard Eaton "How Delhi’s Muslim rulers presided over a fusion of cultures and religions") -- Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania by Cristina A. Bejan (Some notable names of the period include Mircea Eliade, E. Cioran, Eugene Ionescu) -- Ten Caesars Roman emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry Strauss & The Origin of Empire: Rome from the republic to Hadrian by David Potter -- Two related reviews: A new translation of Doctor Zhivago and a novel about the publishing of Pasternak's novel in the West during the Cold War -- An essay on the late novels of the South African author J.M. Coetzee -- Sarah Pascoe's Sex Power Money, "... Pascoe’s personal project to learn more about the differences between male and female sexuality, is an ambitious, thoroughly researched and very funny romp through contemporary sexual politics." -- A review of Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class and Domestic Labour in the Women's Suffragette Movement by Laura Schwartz -- Two reviews of current films 1917 dir. by Sam Mendes, and Little Women dir. by Greta Gerwig.

Edited: Jan 10, 5:35pm Top

In a posting in the previous (2019) "Exploring Books" I cited the following:

Constance Grady. Vox, Dec. 23, 2019. The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

However, for another perspective, a press release from a digital platform used by many public libraries:

Jan. 8, 2020: Public Libraries Reach Record-High Ebook and Audiobook Usage in 2019. Some quotes: "A record 73 public library systems in five countries loaned over 1 million digital books to readers in 2019. Achieving this unprecedented level of reader engagement: 45 city or county library systems and 28 regional or state consortiums. Eight libraries reached this million book milestone for the first time. ... Notable digital libraries for 2019 include Toronto Public Library (the number one library in the world with 6.6 million digital book loans, an all-time high for any library), Los Angeles Public Library (the number one US library for the first time with 5.9 million." Lending records across the platform (Rakuten Overdrive): "Ebooks borrowed: 211 million (+15%) ... 73 public library systems around the world (+12%) with over 1 million digital book checkouts, including 22 over 2 million checkouts, five over 3 million, four over 4 million, five over 5 million and one over 6 million. ... New public library (digital) users: 5 million (+12%)."

There's still more (lists): Top 5 audiobooks and e-books checked out from public libraries, top digital books by genre.

--Link via American Libraries Direct 1/10/20.

Jan 12, 12:48pm Top

Two essays on the state of literary reading in 2020:

Mark Athitakis. Washington Post 1/09/2019: Reading will supposedly make you a better person. That’s not the real reason to pick up a book.

Ross Douthat. NYT 1/11/2019: The Academic Apocalypse: The crisis of English departments is also a crisis of faith.

Jan 12, 5:42pm Top

Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach), a 21st century novelist on two Victorians:

The Guardian, 01/11/2020: The House of Mirth: Jennifer Egan on Edith Wharton’s masterpiece.

And an earlier piece I missed last year:

The Guardian, 04/21/2018: Middlemarch: Jennifer Egan on how George Eliot’s unorthodox love life shaped her masterpiece.

I've read Middlemarch a couple times -- I'd read it again if I get another chance -- but Wharton has been a regrettable omission; I'm getting to her fiction only in my old age. I've recently finished The Age of Innocence & I'll bump The House of Mirth to the top of my Wharton TBR.

Jan 12, 6:12pm Top

A translation of Svetlana Alexievich's Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II has recently been published. Back in the day, Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird was a fictional narrative of a Jewish child caught up in the Holocaust. It's had a problematic history -- did Kosinski really write it? How much, if any, is autobiographical, and, if not, how representative are the horrific incidents? Was the author toying with his audience's prurient expectations? A film of The Painted Bird came out in 2019, and the reviewer chooses to discuss the film in the context of the fairly substantial genre of Holocaust films, though some of the original novel's issues are unavoidable as well. The reviewer teaches Comparative Literature and English at Yale.

Marta Figlerowicz. Los Angeles Review of Books, 1/10/202: Film After Auschwitz: On Václav Marhoul’s “The Painted Bird”.

Jan 12, 6:19pm Top

Parenting tips for readers or reading tips for parent-readers:

Liz Moore. LibHub, 01/10/2020: How to Read After Becoming a Parent: Liz Moore Suggests Practical Ways to Do the
Impossible and Find More Time.

Jan 12, 6:50pm Top

Genre fiction:

Michael Stanley. Crimereads.com, Jan. 9, 2020: A Beginner's Guide to African Crime Fiction.

Four recent articles on science fiction from https://www.publicbooks.org/:

Eleanor Courtemanche. 1/09/2020: Internet Dystopias After Trump.

Franco Laguna Correa. 1/8/2020: Ray Bradbury on War, Recycling, and Artificial Intelligence.

Alec Nevala-Lee. 1/07/2020: Asimov's Empire, Asimov's Wall.

John Plotz and Pu Weng. 1/06/20: To Reach the Pure Realm of the Imaginary: a Conversation with Cixin Liu.

Jan 15, 10:24am Top

Romance novels to thrillers:

Tanen Jones. crimereads.com, Jan. 15, 2020: Thrillers Pick Up Where Romance Leaves Off, or, What Happens After the Kiss?

Jan 15, 11:27am Top

The children's books librarian who didn't like Goodnight Moon ...

Dan Kois. Slate. Jan. 13, 2020: How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon: There’s a reason this classic is missing from the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

... or Stuart Little:

Jill Lepore. New Yorker, July 21, 2008: The Lion and the Mouse: The battle that reshaped children’s literature.

The Lepore story goes back aways so maybe paywalled, so a little background. The librarian was Anne Carroll Moore, who was the first superintendent of the New York Public Library's Department of Work with Children, even before the library opened in 1911. She oversaw the children's programs in all the branch libraries, and planned the main library's Central Children's Room; "its Children’s Room became a pint-sized paradise, with its pots of pansies and pussy willows and oak tables and coveted window seats, so low to the floor that even the shortest legs didn’t dangle." Among her many accomplishments, generally for the first time: brought in storytellers for over 200 story hours in the first year, and doubled the number in two years -- compiled a list of 2500 standard works of children's literature -- instrumental in granting borrowing privileges for children (by 1913 children's books were one third of books circulated in the branch libraries) -- celebrated the holidays of immigrants & stocked the shelves with books in French, German, Russian, & Swedish -- hired African-American author Nella Larsen to head the Children's Room in Harlem -- abolished age restrictions -- took down the Silence signs & replaced them with illustrations from children's books.

In a city of publishers, no one had more power in the failure or success of children's books publications than Moore for the 1st 50 years of the 20th century, until she locked horns with New Yorker author (recall source of the article) E.B. White & his wife Katharine. Moore supported White's project of writing the children's book Stuart Little and goaded him for 7 years to publish it. Unfortunately, she did not like the book when she finally read the galleys. "'“She said something about its having been written by a sick mind,' E. B. White remembered." Moore did her best to keep the book out of libraries, but did not succeed, though she did keep it out of consideration for a Newberry Award, the Pulitzer of kid lit. Despite her efforts, the book sold 4 million volumes by the time of the New Yorker article.

For me, the good outweighed the bad, though the Whites I'm sure would not agree.

Jan 17, 10:43am Top

Another children's book story:

Michelle H. Martin. The Atlantic, Jan. 16, 2020: What Captivates Children About The Snowy Day? "Ezra Jack Keats’s picture book is the most checked-out volume of all time at the New York Public Library. A professor of children’s literature examines why the book has connected with so many kids"

Jan 17, 11:01am Top

Alasdair Gray, Dec. 28, 1934-Dec. 29, 2019.

Julia Carmel, NYT 01/10/2019: Alasdair Gray, Scottish Author of Daring Prose, Dies at 85. He was the author of the weird fantasy novel Lanark: A Life in Four Books (1981), which I read when it was first published in the U.S. -- very impressive, with great illustrations by the author. Hard to believe it was so long ago. Hard to summarize, so this time I'll let the obit do the work: "The narrative of “Lanark” unfolds out of order — it begins with Book Three — and the focus shifts between the parallel universes of postwar Glasgow and a futuristic, hellish universe called Unthank. As the two main characters, Duncan Thaw and Lanark, explore their cities — one mundane, the other fantastical — they fixate on the mechanics of their societies and the inefficient nature of their governments. Mr. Gray’s illustrations are interspersed throughout the nearly 600-page novel, accompanied by curiously formatted sidebars and indexes."

Jan 17, 12:08pm Top

Interesting items from this week's (Jan. 17 2020) TLS.


Biancamaria Fontana. Power to the People. Lengthy review of the new Pleiade edition of Michelet's Histoire de la Révolution française (1847).

Samuel Earle. Visually Speaking: The new ubiquity of photographic images. Review of Nathan Jurgenson, The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media and Kate Eichorn, The End of Forgetting: Growing Up with Social Media. "More than a trillion photographs are now taken every year – up from 80 billion in 2000 – and as the number soars, meaning and function morph as well, away from documentation, towards something more mundane and fundamental. "

Ann Kennedy Smith. Cursed with hearts and brains: Female intellectuals and muses of the twentieth century. Review of Francesca Wade, Square Haunting: Five women, freedom and London between the wars, D.J. Taylor, Lost Girls: Love, war and literature 1939–1951, Mo Moulton, Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford circle remade the world for women.

Samantha Ellis. She Too:
Why we should appreciate the modern Anne Brontë
. (Essay) See also the Bannerjee review below.

Probably paywalled, but intriguing:

Kathryn Hughes. Trickster Term: A merry mixture of philosophy, philology and cultureM. Review of Sara Ahmed, What's the Use: On the Uses of Use. "By way of example, she points to the bird family rendering the post box unfit for its original purpose. The occupants are engaging in queer use. So, by extension, is anyone who refuses to “get used to” the way things are. This might be anyone from the trans person who dismisses the twee stick figures on public bathrooms to the students who “occupy” a university admin room after its hours of use."

Jacqueline Bannerjee. Hiding a warrior’s heart: Concealed strengths of the baby of the Brontë family. Review of Adelle Hay, Anne Bronte Reimagined: A view from the twenty-first century, Melissa Hardie, Bronte Territories: Cornwall and the unexplored maternal legacy, 1760–1860, Bella Ellis, The Vanished Bride: The Bronte Mysteries.

Clare Saxby. Thoughts about time: A Poet's Watchful Gaze on the Natural World. Review of Kathleen Jamie, Surfacing. "We begin in the West Highlands of Scotland, deep within a cave that holds the 45,000-year-old bones of a bear. From here, we travel to an Alaskan village where treasures crafted half a millennium ago are tumbling out of the tundra. Back in Scotland, we watch a Neolithic farming settlement take shape among the cattle-filled fields of Westray." Jamie is the author of other natural history essay collections: Findings and Sightlines.

Rowan Williams. Atlantic intellectual: The life of an extraordinary French scholar. Review of Florian Michel, Etienne Gilson: Une biographie intellectuelle et politique. I was introduced to Gilson's work in a college philosophy survey by a professor who never got past the Middle Ages -- not really a criticism, just so you know.

Best review title:
Annette Volfing. Beavers without testicles: The moral message of pre-modern animals. Review of Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World editor Elizabetha Morrison. An exhibition catalog of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Most blah review title:
Brian Morton. No Country for Old Whales: Melville, oceanography and uncertainty. Review of Richard J. King, Ahab's Rolling Sea: A natural history of “Moby-Dick” and Bathsheba Demuth, Floating Coast: An environmental history of the Bering Strait .

Jan 18, 4:42pm Top

Jan 18, 5:31pm Top

Roger Scruton, 1944-2020. A conservative gadfly in the tradition of Paul Johnson, his reviews appeared in TLS & The Spectator. Only book I've read by him was Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey which may still be in my library somewhere, uncataloged. He was very prolific (NYT obit has him at ca. 50 titles). He wrote a couple of "short introduction" type books on the philosophy greats, e.g. Kant: a very short introduction, but also on aesthetics, music, architecture, and sex. An academic, but functioned more as a public intellectual. Supported Brexit, like many British conservatives.

Alan Cowell. NYT 01/16-17/2020: Roger Scruton, a Provocative Public Intellectual, Dies at 75.

Jan 18, 5:54pm Top

Michael Wert, author of Samurai, a concise history, is interviewed.

Sophie Roell. Five Books, 01/16/2020: The Best Books on Samurai recommended by Michael Wert.

The interview clarifies key topics about the samurai: on bushido, the so-called rules of chivalry, the myth that the samurai spent most of their time fighting, and the role of their wives (very different cultural norms regarding marriage). Werter explains why he chose these five books: Luke Roberts Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan -- Eiki Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan -- Constantine Vaporis, Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan -- Teruko Craig, ed. & translator, Musui’s Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai -- Mark Teeuwen & Kate Wildman Nakai, Lust, Commerce, and Corruption: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard, by an Edo Samurai.

Jan 20, 12:05pm Top

>28 featherbear:, very interested in this subject; thanks. I read The Samurai: A New History of the Warrior Elite by Jonathan Clements not long ago and thought that was very good as a concise history.

Jan 20, 1:37pm Top

Just finished reading this New Yorker profile -- you'll want to take a look if you like S-F or fantasy.

Raffi Katchadourian. New Yorker, 01/27/2020: N.K. Jemisin's Dream Worlds. Each novel of her Broken Earth Trilogy won a Hugo: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky. Interesting life as well.

Jan 20, 2:57pm Top

>30 featherbear:, I read just far enough to determine spoilers lay ahead. Planning to read that trilogy this year at some point.

Jan 21, 5:44am Top

>30 featherbear: Thanks for sharing that. An excellent read.

Edited: Jan 21, 9:55pm Top

> 27 I've read Roger Scruton's The Aesthetics of Music and Our Church : a personal history of the Church of England, and found them them very interesting. But I am into music and The Anglican Communion .

Jan 22, 11:19am Top

Recent Atlantic on-line had some interesting book-related articles:

Alexis C. Madrigal. The Atlantic, 01/22/2020: The Way We Write History Has Changed. Because of the smartphone.

Regarding the writing or re-writing of history. Last year I did a posting on the NYT's 1619 Project (on the role of slavery in U.S. history. Here's a riposte by a historian:

Sean Wilentz. The Atlantic, 01/22/2020: A Matter of Facts: The New York Times’ 1619 Project launched with the best of intentions, but has been undermined by some of its claims.

Joe Pinsker. The Atlantic, 01/21/2020: What a Billionaire Thinks Every Kid Should Know. The 1% hedge fund manager Ray Dalio wrote a 600 page book, Principles: Life & Work -- 2 million copies sold. He has distilled his wisdom into a 167 page picture book, Principles for Success intended for readers 6 to 60. The philanthropy of wisdom I calls it.

Jan 22, 11:30am Top

This one has been around for a bit -- thanks to the previous posting on the recent Atlantic articles it occurs to me that this NYT article is book-related. Writing history is fraught (NYT included perhaps):

Dana Goldstein. NYT 01/12/2020: Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories. "We analyzed some of the most popular social studies textbooks used in California and Texas. Here’s how political divides shape what students learn about the nation’s history."

Edited: Jan 22, 12:19pm Top

The dirt on American Dirt:*

Andre Wheeler. The Guardian, Jan. 22 2020: American Dirt: why critics are calling Oprah's book club pick exploitative and divisive.

Teo Armus. WaPo, Jan. 22 2020: ‘American Dirt’ is a novel about Mexicans by a writer who isn’t. For some, that’s a problem.

Rachelle Hampton. Slate, Jan. 21, 2020: Why Everyone’s Talking About American Dirt.

Alexander Alter. NYT, Jan. 13, 2020: Writing About the Border Crisis, Hoping to Break Down Walls. "Jeanine Cummins depicts a mother and son’s gut-wrenching journey in “American Dirt,” even as she acknowledges “I don’t know if I’m the right person to tell this story.”"?

Alex Shepherd. New Republic, Jan. 22, 2020: How Not to Write a Book Review: The fallout over "American Dirt" reveals the publishing industry's biases and blind spots.

Lauren Goff. NYT, Jan. 19, 2020: ‘American Dirt’ Plunges Readers Into the Border Crisis.

*Can I copyright the phrase?

Jan 22, 12:32pm Top

Another crisis I've overlooked for all the wrong reasons:

Christine Larson. The Conversation, Jan. 22, 2020: If the Romance Writers of America can implode over racism, no group is safe.

Edited: Jan 22, 12:57pm Top

Overlooked racism in a recent well-known novel:

Ayşegül Savas. Longreads, Jan. 2020: In Defense of Boris the Russki. "Ayşegül Savaş calls into question a kind of racism in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and laments the liberal reluctance to rebuke discrimination outright, regardless of its targets."

Jan 22, 1:08pm Top

Edgar Awards nominees:

crimereads.com Jan. 22 2020: Announcing the 2020 Edgar Award Nominations.

Nomination categories: Best Novel -- Best First Novel by an American Author -- Best Paperback Original -- Best Fact Crime -- Best Critical/Biography -- Best Short Story -- Best Juvenile -- Best Young Adult -- Best Television Episode Teleplay -- Robert L. Fish Memorial Award -- The Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award -- The G.P. Putnam's Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award.

Quality rubs shoulders with marketing, those last two.

Some of the nominee lists have links to relevant articles in crimereads.

Jan 22, 8:56pm Top

>36 featherbear:

This morning I woke up to a Tweet about just this topic.
Everyone was in an uproar over the centerpieces used during an event related to the book. You can see the centerpieces here.

Jan 22, 9:55pm Top

Link seems to be blocked.

Jan 22, 9:57pm Top

Yes, it doesn't seem to want to direct to the link. It's showing up as this in the URL box:

To check the tweet you can just delete the first part up until the https or just copy and paste the following:

Jan 22, 11:05pm Top

The link to the tweet worked, thanks. Hilarious & sad at the same time. Are you surprised that publishers can be a little ... insulated?

Jan 25, 9:20am Top

On Vivian Gornick, a major influence on the personal essay:

Nora Caplan-Bricler. The Cut, Jan. 24 2020: Vivian Gornick Doesn’t Get the Hype. "The 84-year-old memoirist has a newfound audience, but she’s skeptical of their adoration."

Jan 25, 9:27am Top

Short article on an influential literary festival in India:

Amrit Dhillon. The Guardian, 01/25/2020: Books, Bollywood and barbs: the magic of the Jaipur literature festival "Critics may carp, but stellar lineups, celebrity sightings and swarming crowds make Jaipur the world’s biggest literary event."

Jan 25, 9:40am Top

This article was published last month, but I overlooked it. It's a review of American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, a 2 volume set published by the Library of America:

Scott Bradfield. The New Republic, Dec. 10, 2019: Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes. "... what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre."

Jan 25, 10:12am Top

Another interesting recommendation from the Five Books site:

Ramesh Srinivasin, interview by Sophie Roell. Five Books, 01/23/2020: The best books on Silicon Valley

Srinivasin is the author of Beyond the Valley: How Innovators around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow.

The 5 recommendations are: Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff -- Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences by Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star -- To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov -- Digital Cosmopolitans: Why We Think the Internet Connects Us, Why It Doesn't, and How to Rewire It by Ethan Zuckerman -- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil.

Jan 25, 10:25am Top

E-books at the library. Recall a number of postings from last year on Macmillan's plan to limit the number of e-books a library can purchase to ... one. Here is a more colorful comment.

Caitlin McGarry. Gizmodo, 01/25/2020: Get Your EBooks From the Library, Dummy.

Jan 25, 10:41pm Top

>47 featherbear: Nice article. Thanks for posting it!

Jan 27, 10:53am Top

The state of publishing:

The editors of N+1, N+1, winter 2020: Smorgasbords Don’t Have Bottoms: Publishing in the 2010s.

Edited: Yesterday, 12:50pm Top

Not book related, but I'm a basketball fan, and I had to share this headline from WaPo:

Japan mourns Kobe Bryant, the man who helped put Kobe beef on the global map

Addendum. Memoir of tutoring Bryant in ancient history:

Henry Gruber. N+1, 02/07/2020: I Should Have Known!

Edited: Feb 13, 1:06pm Top

On reading literature:

Jon Baskin. The Point, 01/26/2020: On the Hatred of Literature. Catchy title; Ben Lerner is the whipping boy in this case.

Now an association item, an olden days essay (actually an excerpt from her book) by a writer I like:

Merve Emre. Boston Review, 011/27/2017: Good Reader, Bad Reader. The essay is adapted from her Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America. There's more context for her thesis in this extensive book review:

Bruce Robbins. LARB, 01/21/2018: Reading Bad.

Emre teaches English at Oxford. The site The Millions has a feature called A Year in Reading. So here's herself reading in 2019:

Merve Emre. The Millions, Dec. 9, 2019: A Year in Reading: Merve Emre. I stumbled across this looking for more of her writing, and The Millions has quite a few of these if, like me, you like reading lists.

And more Boston Review pieces:

Merve Emre. Boston Review, 08/22/2017: Two Paths for the Personal Essay.

By the way, Emre is probably best known for her latest book, The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing. An interview with the author on her book:

Merve Emre, Deborah Chasman. Boston Review, 09/19/2018: Who's Got Personality: The Myers-Briggs Bias: An Interview with Merve Emre.

I haven't gotten around to it yet, but she also did a piece on assisted reproduction that got some feedback:

Merve Emre. Boston Review, 08/14/2018: All Reproduction is Assisted. The essay has a number of responses linked to it.

See also: >88

Jan 28, 12:17pm Top

I guess an occasional foray into fantasy sometimes puts me in the Bad Reader category, but I've been reading the two Witcher short story collections shortly after binging the series on Netflix. The series was better known as a video game but the video game was based on a series of Polish novels. Here's an interview posted recently:

Beth Elderkin. 01/27/2020: 'I Do Not Like Working Too Hard or Too Long': A Refreshingly Honest Talk With The Witcher's Creator. Anderzj Sapkowski quote: "Video games are simply not for me, I prefer books as entertainment." (Me too!) Two useful Witcher prequels/short story collections: The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny.

Another fantasy writer (he did a novel based on Faust) is Michael Swanwick. Here's a piece from a Good Reader site:

Sean Guynes. Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), 01/25/2020: The Matter of America: On Michael Swanwick’s “The Iron Dragon’s Mother”.

Edited: Jan 28, 12:24pm Top

I attempted to read that article on bad readers but failed to understand what was meant by paraliterature or bad reader. Likely my poor reading comprehension makes me a bad reader.

Jan 28, 2:06pm Top

If in reference to the Good Reader, Bad Reader article by Emre, I agree it can be abstruse. I haven't read her book, but in the excerpt, she is first contrasting Nabokov's pedagogical emphasis on close reading to bring out the work's formal, esthetic qualities, with non-formal approaches -- do I like this or that character, how does it affect me emotionally, what can we learn about the historical context and biases of the work. The latter is what Baskin is objecting to in the article from The Point. Emre's thesis is to place the non-formal approach ("bad reading") in the historical context of the post-WWII internationalization of US democratic values, though it undoubtedly served also to introduce immigrants to American democratic values via literature as well. What the excerpt leaves out, as Robbins' review claims, is that Emre doesn't really appear to be taking sides one way or the other. Close reading might be seemingly elitist (I'm sure Nabokov would not have any objection to being an elitist in the study of literature) but extra-literary approaches are complicit in the hegemony of the American empire so, uh, pick your poison.

Which came first, I wonder? When I was in college & grad school in the late 60s & early 70s I always associated the extra-literary professors with the older generation. At Columbia Steven Marcus, Dickens, From Pickwick to Dombey and Lionel Trilling Matthew Arnold, and at Yale, Maynard Mack The Garden and the City: Retirement and Politics in the Later Poetry of Pope usually spent more time on the historical context rather than formalistic close reading, and I always assumed these grey eminences took their lead from the professors of their own previous generation. The touchstones of close reading like Cleanth Brooks' The Well Wrought Urn and Understanding Poetry were part of the post war period & seemed like a way of liberating students new to literature from the heavy weight of historical and archival study associated with the literary scholarship of the time -- it was called New Criticism after all. IRL, at least in my experience, the two approaches managed to coexist. It's interesting that the succeeding generation of deconstructionists acknowledged their debt to the close readers of the New Criticism period, but -- dialectically? -- the suspicious approach of the deconstructionists brought forth the new historicism, gender, and ethnic studies that seem to valorize the extra-literary above all.

Jan 28, 5:52pm Top

Follow up to >44 featherbear:, a review of Vivian Gornick's new book, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader

Christopher Sorrentino. Bookforum, Feb/Mar 2020: Ways of Seeing. Gornick, as already noted, is probably best-known as an author of memoirs, and her (re)-readings are exemplary of the extra-literary perspective, more memoir than literary or formalistic interpretation. This makes for an interesting review, since Sorrentino seems to be the diametric opposite, but willing to give Gornick her due:

"Gornick writes, “I read ever and only to feel the power of Life with a capital L,” and this naturalistic or realistic orientation toward fiction pretty reliably informs her response to the works under scrutiny. Gornick frequently praises books for presenting a “full range of characters to flesh out the consequences of life,” books in which there is “so much flesh-and-blood reality” that the characters are “brought to vibrant life.” Again, whether or not one agrees that this is fiction’s sine qua non is irrelevant; the book’s aim is critical mainly in its attempt to demonstrate the ways that meaning is generated by response, and Gornick certainly is convincing when she takes the perceived textual qualities of realness and life and brings them to bear on her own life, particularly in those cases where what had appeared to be real and living to the twenty-year-old Gornick is not at all what seems to the thirty- or sixty- or eighty-year-old Gornick to possess those qualities."

Edited: Jan 29, 3:08pm Top

For Elena Ferrante fans. And another side of Merve Emre I wasn't aware of:

Sarah Chihaya & Merve Emre, interviewer Stephanie Kelley. Five Books, 01/27/2020: The Best Elena Ferrante Books.

The Neapolitan Novels have achieved great popularity, perhaps increased by the mystery of the author's identity. Emre is, as seen in >53 featherbear:, a high-powered academic, so I expect the discussion will not be the usual reading group approach. Merve Emre: "People talked about /the Quartet novels/ as if they were somehow the literary equivalents of soap operas, or a faithful transcription of the author’s life. This led us to believe that people had not done a good enough job paying attention to what we suspected was most interesting about Ferrante, which was her approach to the novel form." Emre was introduced to Ferrante's books by her mother: "I was at my parents’ house and my mother handed me My Brilliant Friend and said, “It’s about friendship. It’s not the kind of thing you would like.” " (All sorts of family dynamics here!) Like Stephanie Kelley, I haven't read the Quartet (though I have started reading My Brilliant Friend so I will put off reading the discussion until I've made more progress). Is she going to transform Bad Reading into Good Reading?

Jan 29, 5:35pm Top

Addendum to >37 featherbear: (via Longreads):

Kelly Faircloth. Jezebel, 01/15/2020: Inside the Spectacular Implosion at the Romance Writers of America.

Edited: Jan 29, 6:15pm Top

More "Dirt" so to speak. Publishing and marketing issues if you're from a minority. Found the link to this new online publication founded by the author Roxane Gay via Longreads.

Wendy C. Ortiz. Gay Mag, 01/29/2020: Adventures in Publishing Outside the Gates. Wendy Ortiz, her efforts to get her memoir Excavation: a memoir published. It was passed on by the major publishers, and she goes into fascinating detail as she recounts how it was finally issued & marketed (more DIY than anything else) by a small press in 2014. Then she discovers that the novel My Dark Vanessa w/blurb by Stephen King is in the pipeline for a major rollout. My Dark Vanessa seems to have disturbing similarities to her own memoir. She sees the American Dirt story being recapitulated in her situation. If you have that novel or memoir you want to see published, this is worth a read, especially if you're a minority author.

P.S. Gay Mag, which is new to me, seems to have a lot of interesting articles -- I suspect by writers who haven't gotten a lot of publicity. Check it out if you haven't visited it before.

Jan 30, 10:48am Top

Fantasy genre posting of the day:

Dan Kois. Slate, 01/29/2020: This New Zealand Fantasy Masterpiece Needs to Be Published in America, Like, Now. Though I'm a little turned-off by the millennial-ese of the headline.

Jan 30, 11:06am Top

Well, then, another genre posting I guess. I found Picnic on Paradise when it first came out on a paperback rack on Chapel Street in New Haven. Liked it, but I don't know whether I ever followed up on her later novels.

B.D. McClay. New Yorker, 01/30/2020: Joanna Russ, the Science-Fiction Writer Who Said No. Includes stuff about her feud -- or, better, disagreement -- with Ursula Le Guin.

Jan 30, 11:19am Top

From the current New Yorker. "After her suicide, in 1941, Virginia Woolf left behind a trove of letters, manuscripts, and postcards that have been acquired by the New York Public Library":

Roxana Robinson. New Yorker, 01/29/2020: Holding Virginia Woolf in Your Hands. Robinson going through the memorabilia in the NYPL Berg Collection, which recently added the William Beekman Collection of Virginia Woolf and Her Circle.

Jan 30, 1:09pm Top

Last week's issue didn't have anything that caught my eye (I'll take another look maybe). This week, however, is coming out with The Science Fiction Issue (plus other genre topics, e.g. Sergio Leone). Mostly paywalled, I'm sure, but I'm sure a couple of articles are freebies. The online version subscription price wasn't too bad, surprisingly. The print version might be in some libraries (issue for: Jan. 31, 2020).

Keith Hopper. Start with Leone: Several Perspectives on the Spaghetti Western. Review of: Christopher Frayling, Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece (with a foreword by Quentin Tarantino!) -- Alex Cox, 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Italian Western -- Alessandro De Rosa, Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words UK Title: In His Own Words: Ennio Morricone in Conversation.

Peter Thonemann. But What If ... : A counterfactual examination of the history of EuropeReview of: Walter Scheidel, Escape from Rome: The failure of empire and the road to prosperity (what if another European empire replaced the Roman)

Alice Bloch. When it went Remain. Review of: William Gibson, Agency.

Alexander Leissle. In the Fright Garden: The bizarre worlds of Jeff VanderMeer. Review of VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts.

Lucy Dallas. Great Heavy Sacks of Stuff: James S. A. Corey’s convention-bending space opera. Review of: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction -- James S.A. Corey, Series: The Expanse Vols 1-8.

Lachlan McKinnon. Aesthetic Certainty: A Full Exploration of T.S. Eliot's Critical Opinions. Review of: Ronald Schuchard, ed., The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot: The Critical Edition (Johns Hopkins Press, not found on LT).

Ian Thomson. Equal Dangers: A defence of Italian crime fiction.

Michael Sherborne. Alls Wells That Ends Well: The Radical Challenge of a Titan of Letters. Review of: Adam Roberts, H.G. Wells: A Literary Life -- Sarah Cole, Inventing Tomorrow: H.G. Wells and the Twentieth Century -- Galya Diment, ed. H.G. Wells and All Things Russian.

Barbara Heldt. Still being red: The Russian fantasy author who is both intriguing and dated. Review of: Alexander Grin, Fandango and other stories

Pippa Goldschmidt. An eye on the skies: A very private science fiction writer. Review of Amy Binns, Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters. Wyndham is the author of, among others: Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos, The Kraken Wakes.

Liz Caveney. From another world: Issues of identity in modern science fiction.

Robert Irwin. Planetary picnics: Contemplating the future set out in the past. Review of, Gary K. Wolfe, ed. American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1960-1966 and American Science Fiction: Four classic novels, 1968-1969. (Both in the Library of America series.

Lucy Hughes-Hallet. Voices in the dark: Fighting a complex war in Italy, during the 1940s. Review of: Caroline Moorehead, A House in the Mountains: The women who liberated Italy from fascism.


Jan 30, 5:44pm Top

Thanks for catching this one. For me, different translations are a good excuse to do a bit of re-reading. Translations themselves are re-readings, so re-reading a "classic" is like a re-reading of a re-reading. For works in the original language, if you can afford it, new editions are a pretty good incentive. What goes counter to re-reading occurs when I read something for the first time which inspires me to read something related in some way, though the relationship can be determined by the next book in a series, or another book by the same author, or some other literary work alluded to in the work at hand, or a footnote or other bibliographic reference, or a counter-argument or style, or simply some obscure association item.

It was also interesting reading the comments for other perspectives on re-reading.

I thought Dirda had retired from reviewing; nice to see he's still around.

Jan 30, 5:59pm Top

Here's something from crimereads.com that presents a lengthy overview of a prolific crime-fiction Florida-based author.

Neil Nyren. crimereads.com, 01/30/2020: Carl Hiassen: A Crime Reader's Guide to the Classics.

For the Florida crime milieu, my favorite author is Charles Willeford for his Hoke Mosley novels: Miami Blues & Sideswipe, but I haven't read much of his extensive oeuvre.

Feb 1, 9:44am Top

Two obituaries for the crime fiction author Mary Higgins Clark, 1927-2020:

Helen T. Verongos. NYT, 01/31/2020: Mary Higgins Clark, Best-Selling Queen of Suspense, Dies at 92

Emily Langer. WaPo, 01/31/2020: Mary Higgins Clark, spinner of suspenseful yarns, dies.

Feb 4, 4:19pm Top

A nicely illustrated article picked up via AL Direct:

Georgianna Ziegler. Shakespeare and Beyond, 01/24/2020: What were women reading? A dive into the Folger vault. "Peer with me into the books left behind by women readers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. What kind of books were they reading? What sort of notes did they write in them? What can we learn about their lives?"

Feb 4, 4:34pm Top

Another article, this time from the New Yorker, on Vivian Gornick's book, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-Reader, on re-reading (see >44 featherbear:, >57 featherbear:). Probably paywalled, but it's the latest issue, so should be readily available at a library near you.

Alexandra Schwartz. New Yorker. 02/03/2020: Vivian Gornick Is Re-Reading Everyone, Including Herself.

Feb 4, 4:44pm Top

Apparently a big brouhaha on Twitter (I don't subscribe; the link is at the beginning of the article) prompts Slate to "re-print," so to speak, an essay from bygone days of yore:

Anne Fadiman. Slate, 02/04/2020: Never Do That To a Book. "SIR, YOU MUST NEVER DO THAT TO A BOOK."

Edited: Feb 7, 9:26am Top

George Steiner, the eminent critic, has died.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt & William Grimes. NYT, 02/04/2020: George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90.

Adam Gopnick. New Yorker, 02/05/2020: The Seriousness of George Steiner.


George Steiner in the TLS. "Heidegger and Arendt, Celan and Benjamin, Sartre and Flaubert, life and literature and death."

Addendum 2:

Kinton Ford. n+1, 02/06/2020: An Evening With George Steiner (1929–2020): A critic and his critics,

Feb 5, 3:38pm Top

Currently reading Leo Tolstoy's Collected Shorter Fiction in the Everyman 2 v. edition & Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, so, with The Death of Ivan Ilyich in mind, this essay-review in this week's TLS caught my eye:

Caryl Emerson. TLS, 02/07/2020: Bringing Him Down: Leo Tolstoy's Art, Ideas, and Lived Life

Feb 7, 2:22pm Top

Remembering card catalogs:

Stephen J. Greenberg. Circulating Now, 02/06/2020: Card Tricks: the Decline and Fall of a Bibliographic Tool.

Got the link via the AL Direct newsletter.

Feb 8, 9:20am Top

>61 featherbear: But surely the retro 'bummer' nicely balances out the 'like, now'? I see that author italicses freely, too. I noticed this because one of the italicised words was 'whelm'. Sorry, I should save my whinging for the pedants' group here--it's just that the notion of a 'fantasy masterpiece' made me cranky.

Feb 10, 8:55am Top

Amazon news:

David Streitfeld. NYT, 02/09/2020: In Amazon’s Bookstore, No Second Chances for the Third Reich.

Feb 10, 9:40am Top

A lengthy re-examination of The Awakening:

Claire Vaye Watkins. NYT 02/05/2020: The Classic Novel That Saw Pleasure as a Path to Freedom.

Feb 10, 9:47am Top

Interesting reading list (can't seem to find the name of the interviewer). Not the best header for an article, by the way:

NYT, 02/06/2020: Why Gish Jen Hasn't Read One of the Most Acclaimed Books of 2019.

Feb 10, 10:09am Top

My morning check on Arts & Letters Daily brought up this link to a nice essay:

David Mason. Hudson Review, Winter 2020: The Durable Art of Elizabeth Bishop.

Feb 10, 10:19am Top

About Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse:

Kathryn Harkup. The Guardian (U.S. ed.), 02/09/2020: How Agatha Christie mystery The Pale Horse may have inspired a murderer.

Feb 10, 10:40am Top

Another popular author, in a New Yorker profile:

Ian Parker. New Yorker, 02/10/2020: Yuval Noah Harari Gives the Really Big Picture.

Edited: Feb 10, 11:30am Top

>78 featherbear:, this was particularly interesting:

You sometimes teach in China. What books about China would you recommend to a Western audience?

Qiu Xiaolong’s delightful Inspector Chen mysteries is a great place to start; his most recent book, Shanghai Redemption, will give you a sense of the tricky and ever-shifting terrain the Chinese negotiate as a matter of course. If you seek a deeper understanding, I strongly recommend Richard Nisbett’s great classic, The Geography of Thought, which puts to rest many ideas about universality once and for all. (Full disclosure: Such is my admiration, I wrote a kind of homage to Nisbett, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap.) As for how Chinese culture is perpetuated, Lenora Chu’s candid account of her American child’s experience in an elite Chinese primary school, Little Soldiers, explains a lot even as it throws our own educational practices into relief.

Edited: Feb 11, 6:35pm Top

Got this from ALA online newsletter Libraries Direct:

Ellen Gutoskey. 02/04/2020: New App Lets You Hear Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales in Original 14th-Century English.

Feb 13, 12:01pm Top

In >8 featherbear: above I linked to an article on Asian-American writers of the 70's. Here's a link to the current scene:

Brandon Yu. Gen, 02/11/2020: Asian American Writers Are Finally Breaking Out on Their Own Terms. Nice collection of authors to look into.

Feb 13, 12:06pm Top

Book reviewing today. Critique of a recent book on the topic.

Peter Conrad. The Observer, 01/26/2020: Inside the Critics’ Circle by Phillipa K Chong review – rickety scaffolding. "A study of book reviewing shows little understanding of the activity."

I have a couple of additional links on file which I need to look up; later for that. Will add here if I find them.

Feb 13, 12:21pm Top

So there's a new memoir, In the Land of Men: A Memoir, about editing at Esquire and living with David Foster Wallace (author of the intimidatingly long novel Infinite Jest). I've only read the first few pages (of Jest) so far; seems to be about tennis?:

Zan Romanoff. LitHub, 02/10/2020: The Fraught Task of Describing Life with David Foster Wallace: Zan Romanoff on Adrienne Miller's In the Land of Men.

Laura Marsh. New Republic, 02/12/2020: Infinite Jerk: Adrienne Miller’s memoir of her relationship with David Foster Wallace is part of an emerging genre of women coming of age via an older, powerful man.

More to come, I'm sure. Will add links at this space.

Edited: Feb 13, 1:09pm Top

Readers of a certain age may remember the Marxist critic Louis Althusser -- for structuralist readings of Marx, or, if not that, for choking his wife to death during sex (or so he or his lawyer claimed). I liked the title, anyway. Here's a look back in anger:

Christopher Bray. The Critic, 02/2020: Inveterate ignoramus: Christopher Bray reviews History and Imperialism by Louis Althusser.

An LT touchstone link to: History and Imperialism.

Edited: Feb 13, 1:10pm Top

Looking back on >53 featherbear: with an addendum from LARB on Good Reading:

Sumnana Roy. Los Angeles Review of Books, 02/08/2020: On Being Raised by New Critics in a Small Indian Town.

An LT touchstone link to: The Well Wrought Urn by Cleanth Brooks.

Edited: Feb 13, 1:47pm Top

Not a big fan of these "books to look forward to in the coming year" genre for not yet published books; I suspect they're really blurbs written to bypass criticism. But, since most of the recommends in this Five Books posting are by popular authors whose "latest" will be of interest to many, here's ...

Cal Flyn. FiveBooks, 02/11/2020: Editors’ Picks: Notable Novels of Early 2020. Wasn't aware that the Hilary Mantel Thomas Cromwell novels were a trilogy; anyways the 3rd one is on the way. Haven't read a one so far; the earlier volumes are sitting on my TBR shelves at the moment.

Keep in mind that Five Books is a British site, so the publishing schedule may differ in the U.S. or wherever else you are.

Also of interest. On the site's main page (for today, anyway), there are 2 reader contributed new books recommendations: Fiction 2020 and Non-Fiction 2020.

For more Five Books "reader lists": "READER LISTS Welcome to our Five Books reader lists, where readers make their own recommendations on subjects they have read a lot about.". Not sure if these are necessarily better than LT or Goodreads reader recommendations.

Feb 13, 9:17pm Top

I am ridiculously excited for the 3rd Thomas Cromwell book. Been my most anticipated sequel for almost as long as the 2nd one's been out. It's one of those ones with the tentative publishing dates that kept getting pushed back.

Feb 14, 7:58am Top

For Valentine's Day: "From sea to shining sea, here’s a tour of unforgettable fiction that explores matters of the heart." Every state, its book.

Tina Jordan and Elisabeth Egan. NYT, 02/01/2020: 50 States of Love.

Feb 14, 12:44pm Top

The NYPL's booklist:

Emily Temple. Literary Hub, 02/14/2020: The NYPL Was Founded 125 Years Ago: Here Are Their 125 Favorite Books Published Since Then.

Or you can go to the NYPL site: 125 Books We Love*.

*For adults.

Edited: Feb 14, 12:55pm Top

The DCPL (District of Columbia Public Library) list of the most popular titles by black authors checked out in 2019:

Aaron Robertson. LitHub, 02/13/2020: 53 U.S. senators should go to a D.C. library and read these books by black authors.

Feb 14, 8:22pm Top

TLS week of 02/14/2020. Articles may be paywalled.

Peter Straus. Bookends: Surveying the past and future of reading. Review of The Oxford Handbook of Publishing.

Adrian Tahourdin. Forgotten fronts: Translation prizewinners for 2019. Notes on Avigdor Hameiri’s Hell on Earth (Trans. from Hebrew Peter Applebaum) about the Russian front in 1916 -- Khaled Kalifa's Death is Hard Work (Trans. from Arabic Leri Price about life in the ongoing Syrian civil war -- Esther Kinsky's River (Trans. from German by Iain Galbraith) a Sebaldian piece by a German about life near the Lea river in East London -- Sander Kollard's Stage Four: a novel (Trans. from Dutch by Michele Hutchison) about a couple on a retirement trip retracing their 1968 journey; the husband must come to terms with his wife's fatal illness -- Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station (Trans. from Japanese by Morgan Giles) on the underside of Japanese prosperity -- Norah Lange's People in the Room (Trans. from Spanish by Charlotte Whittle) where a 17 yr old observes the activities of 3 women in Buenos Aires -- Patrick Chamoiseau’s The Old Slave and the Mastiff U.S. Title Slave Old Man (Trans. from French-Creole by Linda Coverdale) about an escaped slave.

Ann Aslanyan. Academy of intellectual scorn: The group that freed themselves by inventing rules. Review of The Penguin Book of Oulipo, The Oulipo and Modern Thought, All That is Evident is Suspect: Readings from the Oulipo and others. Remember Life, a User's Manual?

Louis Amis. Free, indirect and vitriolic: The full, brutal force of male vice in Fernanda Melchor's Hurricane Season. Hurricane Season is scheduled for publication in the U.S. in March 2020 by New Directions. "The story concerns a village witch, whose corpse is found floating in the river on page one: “her face had been half-eaten by some animal and it looked like the crazy bitch, the poor thing, was smiling”. The narrative channels one neighbourhood character after another, recounting their unreliable versions of who the woman was, and who did what to her – and why – along with tangential episodes of graphic, sexual violence (including bestiality and child rape). Almost every character swears and insults all the others gratuitously, flooding the free indirect narration with vitriol. Clichés are also endemic – “lost her marbles”; “chip off the old block”; “the thorn in her side” – as another form of ugliness. The novel itself is a witch’s brew, as harsh as possible by design. The ultra-long sentences and strict no-paragraphs policy mean that it has to be downed, more or less, in one shot." Must have been godawful difficult to translate (by Sophie Hughes).

Plus 2 reviews of books by or associated with William Burroughs; a review of American Dirt focusing on the book itself; books by and about John Donne.

Feb 15, 12:35pm Top

Some recent items of interest on LARB:

S. Tremaine Nelson. Los Angeles Review of Books, 02/14/2020: A Gorgeous Nightmare: On Mark Z. Danielewski’s “The Little Blue Kite”. Danielewski is best known for his post-modernist horror pulp-fiction House of Leaves; Blue Kite is his new children's book.

Patricia Grisafi. 02/14/2020: Elizabeth Wurtzel and the Feminist Disability Memoir.

Tucker Coombe. 02/09/2020: Abandoning Your Religion. Review of Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper.

Ed Simon. 02/15/2020: Condemned to Salvation: Considering Universalism with David Bentley Hart. Review of That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Hart has an NYT Op Ed (01/10/2020) that is doubtless related: Why Do People Believe in Hell?. I'm currently dipping into his radical new translation (The New Testament: A Translation) which is worth a look if you're interested.

Edited: Feb 15, 12:54pm Top

For fantasy fans,

Margaret Kingsbury. Buzzfeed News, 02/11/2020: 14 Books To Read If You're Missing "The Witcher". "Margaret Kingsbury is a writer and educator who gives daily book recommendations, says hello to birds, and has seen fairies." Cute, huh? Still, many of these titles are new to me. Recently finished Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish -- ok, worth a read. His other short story collection Sword of Destiny I'm reading but can easily put it down; suspect I won't go on to the novels. Reading another of her recommendations, Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Slowly. Also re-reading Annihilation (Jeff Vandermeer) which is not on Kingsbury's list.

Feb 15, 1:10pm Top

On the Boston Review site, Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion discusses his work, in a forum with responses from Leslie Jamison, Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter Singer, and several others. Old stuff from 2014, but I think worth a look. Links to the responses come with the article.

Paul Bloom. Boston Review, 09/10/2014. Against Empathy.

Feb 16, 11:07am Top

According to Tom Hanks, no man has read Little Women, Jane Eyre, or Pride and Prejudice though many have claimed to have done so. Here's a review on what women look for in fiction.

Sophie Duncan. Literary Review, 02/2020: She-Readers. A review of Helen Taylor's Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives.

Yesterday, 12:41pm Top

Reviews of the recently translated novel Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq, French godfather of incels with ties (maybe) to European populism.

Noelle Bodick. n+1, 02/14/2020: Too Disturbing: On Michel Houellebecq’s Serotonin.

Andrew Marzoni. Baffler, 12/09/2019: All I Have Are Negative Thoughts.

Dwight Garner. NYT, 11/18/2019: In Michel Houellebecq’s ‘Serotonin,’ the Provocative Beat Goes On (and On).

G. Gavin Collins. Quillette, 09/19/2019: Michel Houellebecq: Populism’s Prophet.

Yesterday, 2:35pm Top

Newbery Award winners.

Krishna Grady, interviewed by Sophie Roell. Five Books, 02/17/2020: The Best Children’s Books: The 2020 Newbery Medal and Honor Winners.

"After reading hundreds of newly published books and asking children and adults alike for their input, the winners of the 2020 Newbery Medal and Honors have been chosen. Librarian and chair of the selection committee Krishna Grady introduces us to the best new children's books that will surprise, delight and hold your kid's attention—including the first graphic novel to ever win the award."

Just realized Newbery has one "r."

Today, 11:23am Top

Visiting a bookseller/novelist's private library:

Nina Freudenberger and Sadie Stein. LibHub, 02/18/2020: Inside the ‘Vibrant Intellectual Ecosystem’ of Larry McMurtry’s Home Library.

"McMurtry on the Few Books He Would Never Give Up."

Nice pictures.

Today, 5:22pm Top

Author Roxane Gay's reading in 2019:

Roxane Gay. Gay Mag, 02/05/2020: A Year in the Life: 2019: Roxane Gay's Year of Reading.

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