In the mid-90s, David Foster Wallace published a scathing review of a John Updike novel, Toward the End of Time, that became a key text for critics of the celebrated author. Now, at The New Republic, David Baddiel argues that Updike gets a bad rap, while Jeffrey Meyers backs up DFW’s position. It might also be a good time to read James Santel’s review of Updike’s Collected Stories.
“Our children, at least in this country, with no tales of war to tell; only music and clothes. Infuriating and a blessing for our parents, who had experienced the abyss staring back at them. I suppose their memories must have hung around their necks like stinking albatrosses, only for their children to turn out themselves to be an abyss gazing back at the next generation. Is it catching? Whose 1950s was I living?” This installment of Jenny Diski’s memoir from the London Review of Books is not to be missed.
A Russian publisher has stooped to a new low: it added “fake quotes from fake newspapers on the cover of a … novel released this summer.” That’s not all, either. Apparently the publishers are trying to bill the book as a “Swedish” crime novel even though it was actually written by a Russian under a pseudonym.
Haven’t heard of Teffi? You can blame that one on the Bolsheviks. The early-20th-century Russian poet, playwright and journalist, whose fans included (oddly enough) both Vladimir Lenin and Tsar Nikolai, had to flee a Moscow in turmoil to avoid persecution as a dissident. Now, several publishers are reprinting her memoir of exile, for which The New Statesman has details and a short biography.
After reading through two new biographies of Sylvia Plath — American Isis and Mad Girl’s Love Song — Terry Castle concludes that “nothing about her life or legacy seems wholesome or resolved.” (Related: our own Hannah Gersen talking with Pain, Parties, Work author Elizabeth Winder.)
“Why should Serena not respond to racism? In whose world should it be answered with good manners? The notable difference between black excellence and white excellence is white excellence is achieved without having to battle racism. Imagine.” Claudia Rankine writes for The New York Times Magazine about tennis player Serena Williams, racism in sports, and white privilege. Pair with our own Michael Bourne’s list of books that “shed light on the history and evolution of racism in America.”
HTML Giant contributor Jimmy Chen has written a masterful and hysterical piece for McSweeney’s entitled “Raymond Carver’s OKCupid Profile, Edited by Gordon Lish.”