James Baldwin was more famous for being an essayist and novelist, but he was also a film critic. At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky argues that Baldwin should be considered one of the best film critics for The Devil Finds Work. “Baldwin shows that criticism is art, which means that it doesn’t need a purpose or a rationale other than truth, or beauty, or keeping faith, or doing whatever it is we think art is trying to do.” For more on Baldwin, read our essay on his epiphanies.
New this week: Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov; The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger; Hyde by Daniel Levine; Cambridge by Girl, Interrupted author Susanna Kaysen; Decoded by Mai Jia; Visible City by Tova Mirvis; The Moon Before Morning by W.S. Merwin; and Caribou by Charles Wright.
Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel includes, among other discomfiting things, a series of fake advertisements for surreal women’s beauty products. The plot, which follows a proofreader named A, begins with the main character’s attempt to evade her roommate, and eventually brings A to join a “Church of Conjoined Eaters.” At Slate, Molly Fischer argues the book deftly captures our society’s weird treatment of femininity.
“She gathered books to display for attendees and discovered that inside the cover of one, ‘The Koran for Dummies,’ someone had written “lies cover to cover,” drawn a swastika and made a disparaging remark about the Prophet Muhammad.” The president of the American Library Association reports “startling increases” in 2016 of vandalism, including hateful messages, at libraries. The Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has begun formally tracking such incidents to determine whether the increase is “a blip or a trend.”
With past contributions by Joyce Carol Oates, Yusef Komunyakaa and Dana Goodyear, The Rattling Wall (which gets funding from PEN Center USA) appears to have no problem attracting prominent writers. For a limited time, get a three-year subscription at a discount of close to fifty percent.