I’d heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: “The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally–he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now–but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times (‘arrogant,’ ‘high-handed,’ ‘ethically compromised’) with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.”
One Siberian city is offering free subway rides to passengers who can recite “at least two verses from any poem by Alexander Pushkin.” The obvious corollary would be NJ Transit providing free service to passengers capable of singing “Born to Run” in its entirety.
Author Elaine Dundy died last week. Terry Teachout excerpted his introduction to her book, The Dud Avocado. Edan mentioned the book not long ago in a “staff picks” post.”The One-Room M.F.A. Program“For John O’Brien, “Three” is not the magic number.Car names deemed “too academic:” Dodge Dissertation Defense V8, Chrysler Course Calendar Convertible, etc.AbeBooks’ online symposium on book burning.
W.W. Norton puts together a project similar to our Year in Reading (and with some participants in common): Writers Recommend.Another clever batch of recommendations: Village Voice asks several notables to recommend their favorite “obscure” books.Three Percent reveals its 25-book longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008” (Bonus Link: The Prizewinners: International Edition)A conversation with South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Breyten BreytenbachTodd Zuniga’s (of Opium Magazine and Literary Death Match) “favorite writers we haven’t heard of yet.”Best book cover designs of the year. (via 3% and kottke)Maud reproduces the memo behind the huge reorganization at Random House (which itself is just one part of the belt tightening hitting the publishing industry in recent weeks.)
Out this week: Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock; Our Young Man by Edmund White; Now and Again by Charlotte Rogan; Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’Connor; and The Bricks That Built the Houses by Kate Tempest. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.