Alice Herz-Sommer, a 106-year-old Holocaust survivor and the last living person who knew Franz Kafka personally, reminisces about her friend in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “Kafka was a slightly strange man…”
The LA Times' Festival of Books is happening this weekend, and attendees have not one, not two, but three chances to see Millions staffers Patrick Brown and Edan Lepucki. On Saturday, Patrick will be hanging out on the Nuts and Bolts publishing panel, and on Sunday, he'll be moderating one entitled Art of Immersion. Also on Sunday, Edan will moderate the Visionary Eyes fiction panel with Aimee Bender, Mark Leyner, Ben Ehrenreich, and Elizabeth Crane.
"We all read from different places, different backgrounds, and my meeting with Proust or Woolf, or Lydia Davis or J. M. Coetzee, will not be yours, nor should it be. On the other hand I do believe reading is an active skill, an art even, certainly not a question of passive absorption. ... [so] there must be techniques and tools that everyone can use or try, even if we use them differently." Tim Parks explains how he reads for The New York Review of Books.
At Bookforum, Alexander Benaim reads the latest novel by Jess Row, which I wrote about as part of our most recent book preview. The novel poses a charged, intriguing question: what would happen if it were possible to change your race? (It might also be a good time to read the author’s Year in Reading entry along with our own Mark O'Connell's review of the novel at Slate.)
"While the revolutionary milieu that was the source of many of the book’s events may have vanished, we have our own milieu." At The Rumpus, Will Augerot re-evaluates John Dos Passos's The USA Trilogy. He concludes that Dos Passos is more relevant than ever. Pair with: Our essay on the polyphonic novel.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn's column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area's largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering "Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?"I'm glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it's been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn't a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because "she was angry at library staff for being rude to her."