At My Life and Thoughts, Elif Batuman–in delightfully Elifish style–describes her first book travails and unveils a preliminary sketch for the cover of her forthcoming first book The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.
Important Indiegogo Alert: Kenneth James is editing the personal journals of novelist and critic Samuel R. Delany in a five-volume series. The first volume is complete, and James is asking for a bit of help to complete the second. Neil Gaiman has offered substantial monetary support.
Helen Vendler is one of those rare scholar-writers who doesn’t adhere to a particular school of theory. In her new book of essays, she explains her view of criticism as distinct from both philosophy and scholarship, as a form of learning that’s inherently “unsystematic and idiosyncratic.” In Open Letters Monthly, Jack Hanson reads through the book. You could also read Jonathan Farmer on Rita Dove’s letter to Vendler.
Appearing Elsewhere: VQR Young Reviewers Contest winner and Millions contributor Emily drops by the NBCC blog to tell them what she’s been reading.The NY Times fleshes out some of the details of Google’s digitizing agreement with publishers and authors, including getting into some of the numbers involved. We explained the importance of the deal last year.At Jacket Copy Carolyn Kellogg gets Sarah Weinman to discuss the secrets behind her incredible speed-reading ability. (462 books in 2008!)Carolyn also recently highlighted all the great literary magazines that supplied the featured stories in last year’s “best of” fiction anthologies, as well as the runners up.80 years after the last one, a new Winnie the Pooh book is on its way.A timely and topical list: the Top 10 green books of 2008For the multi-tasker (or perhaps the really lazy): the book holder bracelet.”Had I an atheist friend who asked, ‘Can you tell me please what this religion business is all about, not as some metaphysical hypothesis or historical phenomenon, but what it really means to be religious?’ I might hand him or her a copy of Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead. ‘Read this,’ I’d say, ‘and it will give you a pretty good idea.'”For sports fans: Bill James on why statisticians should boycott the BCS.That perilous question: why blog?Vice did a fiction issue.David Brooks discusses some of the best long-form journalism of 2008 (with links!)The outgoing president’s surprising reading list.The Hype Machine’s impressive top albums of 2008 project.Wikipedia find of the week: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffaloA consideration of poet Jack Spicer.With apologies to William Carlos Williams, A poem for Blago.New short fiction from Horacio Castellanos Moya, author of Senselessness (via Scott)Jonathan Franzen on the Social Novel (via OUP blog)