For Angelenos: Elif Batuman will be reading from The Possessed tonight at 7:00 at the LAPL Central Library. A conversation with LA Times Books Editor David Ulin follows the reading. More information and reservations here (tickets are free).
“I was interested enough in WikiLeaks, state transparency, and emergent opposition networks to do five years in prison over such things, but I wasn’t interested enough that I would have voluntarily plowed through 500 pages of badly plotted failed-marriage razzmatazz by an author who’s long past his expiration date simply in order to learn what the Great King of the Honkies thinks about all this.” Barrett Brown reviews Jonathan Franzen’s Purity from prison. Pair with our own Lydia Kiesling’s review of the book.
Sharpen your pencils freelance book reviewers: The Wall Street Journal plans to buck the trend of disappearing book review sections by launching a weekly pull-out. Robert Messenger will edit. The New York Observer takes note of the storylines in play: Rupert Murdoch once again bucking conventional wisdom, The WSJ trying to go head to head with The New York Times in yet another high-profile venue.
Our review of A Widow’s Story took Joyce Carol Oates to task for not mentioning that she had remarried not long after the death of her husband. In the New York Review of Books, Julian Barnes recently made the same point. Responding to the Barnes review, Oates defended her choice, but diplomatically added, “In retrospect I can see that I should have added something like an appendix.”
With the help of Our Final Hour author Martin Rees, Cambridge will soon open a Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. The Centre will investigate the threats posed by “artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology.” To my ears, this sounds an awful lot like Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, which was memorably depicted in John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “Violence of the Lambs.”