Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow is out today (Kakutani sez, “remarkably tedious” but The Guardian adds, “Amis might draw comfort from the long and distinguished list of Kakutani’s literary victims.”) Also out, Sebastian Junger’s War, the result of time spent embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan.
“In times of tension it is particularly important to defend what is good, identify what would worsen the status quo, strive for balanced assessments, always hoping for the best, and try to identify and oppose any and all steps toward coercive authoritarianism.” Richard Falk narrates the coup in Turkey at Guernica.
Not caught up on the emerging Hermione/Ron scandal? Here’s a recap: a few days ago, J.K. Rowling not only said in an interview conducted by Emma Watson that she regretted pairing up Harry Potter’s best friends, she also said that Harry and Hermione should have ended up together. “[Pairing Hermione and Ron] was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility,” she said. “Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.” (This might be a good time to revisit Michelle Dean on the series.)
In 2013, Mo Yan became China’s first resident Nobel Laureate in Literature, which prompted a huge swell of interest in his books in the West. In the Times, Janet Maslin reviews Frog, his latest novel to get an English translation. Sample quote: “Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye, says everything he needs to about the Cultural Revolution with a scene in which Tadpole and other schoolboys eat coal and claim to find it delicious.” You could also read Alan Levinovitz on modern Chinese literature.
David Foster Wallace wrote the best bitter takedown (PDF) of the cruise ship industry ever, but he only had to endure a 7-night vacation. Imagine his horror, then, if he had been forced to spend significant time on The World, a $20,000+/month ship that continuously circumnavigates the world and has permanent passengers in its 165 private residences. For a more detailed glimpse at life on board the ship, check out Anthony Bourdain’s Gourmet piece on his 2003 visit.