At Well-Read Donkey, Dan Chaon writes about his literary roots.
“denial. A defense mechanism predicated on your inability to accept the painful reality that you are supposed to be reading the selected novel that you literally tried to bury.” At The Toast, Zane Shetler writes a glossary of book club defense mechanisms. Pair with: Our essay on spying on your book club friends.
“In one of his last columns, published in March 1966, Flann O’Brien looked back on his catechism, compiled more than twenty years earlier, and described it as ‘an exegetic survey of the English language in its extremity of logo-daedalate poliomyelitis, anaemic prostration and the paralysis of incoherence.’ One month after writing that, he was dead, and yet within a year a remarkable renaissance was taking place, with the long-delayed publication of his great comic fantasy The Third Policeman and, soon afterwards, the first of many anthologies of the ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ columns, this one entitled The Best of Myles.” (Related: our own Mark O’Connell on the humor in O’Brien’s work.)
“The best critics do more than explain why they liked or didn’t like a book; they try to understand books, and show other readers, by example, how to read and think about those books. Specialized expertise can work in service of that goal, but is probably not as important as a willingness to attempt to be a work’s most thoughtful reader.” Elisa Gabbert writes for Electric Literature about who gets to translate and review works and takes Kazuo Ishiguro‘s latest novel, The Buried Giant (which we reviewed here), as a case study.
Another big, literary title hits shelves today. Tom McCarthy turned heads with Remainder in 2007. Now he’s back with C. Posthumously published is Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey. Also newly released is Sara Gruen’s tale of bonobos and reality television: Ape House, William Gibson’s latest Zero History, and The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass. Culture mavens will be intrigued by The Official Preppy Handbook reboot True Prep. And this week’s intriguing art book is Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography. And in non-fiction, Bob Dylan In America by Sean Wilentz and Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, so compellingly written up in last week’s New Yorker.
“When the French would go to serve, they often said, Tenez!, the French word for ‘take it,’ meaning ‘coming at you, heads up.’ We preserve this custom of warning the opponent in our less lyrical way by stating the score just before we toss up the ball. It was the Italians who, having overheard the French make these sounds, began calling the game ‘ten-ez’ by association. A lovely detail in that it suggests a scene, a Florentine ear at the fence or entryway, listening.” Whether it’s David Foster Wallace or John Jeremiah Sullivan writing about tennis, I’m reading it. Another three-namer, Jonathan Russell Clark, reviewed The David Foster Wallace Reader for The Millions.