“But now that my first book of poems has come out, I’ve become increasingly aware of the challenge of writing a good inscription to a reader. As soon as I’ve got the pen in my hand, I become the most unoriginal message-writer on the planet.” On a little-known gripe about book signings.
Ever since our literary Tumblr round-up, we’ve been inundated with suggestions for a Part 2. Well, I can assure you, the “Least Helpful” Tumblr dedicated to awful Amazon and Goodreads reviews would make that cut if (and when) that sequel appears. (Hat tip to our own Lydia Kiesling for the link.)
New this week: How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball; I Am No One by Patrick Flanery; The Long, Hot Summer by Kathleen MacMahon; The Trap by Melanie Raabe; Absalom’s Daughters by Suzanne Feldman; The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan; and Angels of Detroit by Christopher Hebert.
What inspired Samuel Clemens to change his name to Mark Twain? Was it a Mississippi riverboat captain? Did he earn it by “drinking at a one-bit saloon in Virginia City, Nevada?” Or, as rare book dealer Kevin Mac Donnell now alleges in the new issue of Mark Twain Journal, did the author find his pseudonym in a popular humor journal?
“Imaginary Oklahoma” writes Oklahoman writer James McGirk, “is an anthology of forty-six writers’ attempts to envision Oklahoma without ever having visited America’s forty-sixth state.” You can get a taste for the pieces over at The Paris Review, or you can check out the book trailer and attempt to envision The Paris Review‘s write-up without actually reading it.
The Morning News has just launched a series on contemporary Russian literature. For this week’s installment Anna Starobinets provides an exerpt of her debut manuscript, An Awkward Age, and chats about her writing with Elizabeth Kiem. In the New Yorker, Sally McGrane profiles Boris Akunin, Russian writer of potboilers and political dissident.