The Believer posts a 2003 essay featuring Donald Barthelme’s reading list, which came secondhand to Kevin Moffett, a self-professed non-reader: “Barthelme’s only guidance, passed on by Padgett Powell, one of Barthelme’s former students at the University of Houston and my teacher at the time, was to attack the books ‘in no particular order, just read them,’ which is exactly what I, in my confident illiteracy, resolved to do.” (via The Paris Review)
“Baker is such a wonderful prose stylist that he could probably get away with publishing his diary—which, for epic stretches, is what Substitute feels like.” Over at The Nation, Evan Kindley reviews Nicholson Baker‘s latest, a 700-plus-page non-fiction exploration of substitute teaching. Spoiler: it’s not as sexy as Baker’s other work. If it’s the sex you want, see our primer on Baker’s novels; also immensely entertaining, our interview with the author from 2013.
Hari Kunzru wonders whether the recent surge of attention for Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai makes him the latest talisman for the young New York literary elite. Regardless, it’s worth revisiting Paul Morton’s interview with Krasznahorkai and Adam Z. Levy’s review of his latest novel, Sátántangó.
Out this week: Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander; Sourdough by Robin Sloan; Border by Kapka Kassabova; A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré; and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” Zadie Smith‘s remarks upon accepting the 2016 Welt Literature Prize on November 10th, and the question of whether “multiculturalism” is a failed experiment. Read our review of Smith’s latest novel, Swing Time, here.