“The first section of the book inevitably ends up taking on a Rashomon-ic quality, as Sotatsu’s father, mother, brother and sister all get their say about what transpired during his time in prison, along with a prison guard who observed him. But [Jesse] Ball doesn’t let them fall into the he said-she said realm of one-note characters — these are fully fleshed-out people, whose thoughts, emotions and agendas are as real (and sometimes as contradictory) as your own.” On Silence Once Begun.
Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there's no Wild West.
"Blackness in the white imagination has nothing to do with black people." Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric, is interviewed over at The Guardian on everything from Serena Williams to her emotionally volatile book signings to the inescapability of racism.
Three weeks ago, Vishwas Gaitonde wrote a piece for us about a house in India once owned by the family of George Orwell. Now, in the Times, Jane Perlez pays a visit to Burma, where Orwell served in the Imperial Police Force and gathered impressions for his first novel, Burmese Days.