New releases this week include the much-hyped The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I. Also out in nonfiction is President Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), as reviewed by the New York Times, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and, for hip-hop fans, Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded.
Francis Spufford’s fictionalized book Red Plenty looks to the 1950s-1960s “cybernetics” initiative to answer one of the main questions about the USSR: “Could the Soviet project to build communism have succeeded, or was it doomed to failure from the start?” In his review for The Hoover Institution, Marshall Poe contends the latter.
Gary Indiana posits that “no current literary label appealingly describes the kind of narratives [Renata Adler’s] Speedboat and Pitch Dark are.” This might be true. However in the name of moving forward with discussion, perhaps we can all go with Matthew Spektor’s summation of Adler’s debut novel: “if it’s ‘like’ anything at all, a steeplechase of [dazzling] hurdles could be it.”
In 2011 I wrote about a group of Chilean Communists who wished to exhume Pablo Neruda’s body. They alleged that Neruda was murdered. Now, two years later, a judge has ordered the corpse to be exhumed and autopsied in order to set the record straight.
Sean Manning of the Talking Covers blog spoke with a bunch of authors, editors and artists to take a long, close look at the work of Lorraine Louie, the designer “who came up with the uniform, De Stijl layout” of the inimitable Vintage Contemporaries. And while on the topic of book covers, check out Tammy Fortin’s “New Covers for Old Classics” series she put together for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.