Widely linked to already, but worth reading: James Wood on A.S. Byatt‘s The Children’s Book in the LRB. A mixed review that nonetheless makes me want to read the book is, for me, one mark of a good critic.
Last week, JK Rowling announced that, midway through writing the Harry Potter series, she nearly killed off Ron Weasley "out of spite." Ron isn't the first supporting character to narrowly avoid death in an author's rough draft. The Awl illustrates some of literature's other close calls with death.
Out this week: Everything Love Is by Claire King; They Are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill; The Moravian Night by Peter Handke; All Joe Knight by Kevin Morris; Of All That Ends by Günter Grass; and A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.
In the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller explains why all the year-end lists are a tiresome exercise: "What annoys and disappoints me, though, is the chilly retrospective nature of such lists. They drain all of the blood from the critic's job. They require a cold, methodical calculation of passions long past. They're about yesterday's yearning. Compiling them is a bit like trying to remember why you used to be in love with so-and-so." (Thanks, Laurie)
Masha Gessen (who recently agreed to write a book on the Boston bombers) told a journalist in New Zealand she’s “probably” moving out of Russia. Why? “It’s one thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s risky and difficult; I think in many ways it’s enriching them, and I’m glad my kids have that experience,” she said. “It’s another thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s hopeless. “