“James Schiff, an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a volume of Updike’s letters and has unearthed thousands of letters, postcards, and notes the author sent to complete strangers who wrote to him.” The Guardian writes about an in-progress book of John Updike‘s letters that reveals how often the writer corresponded with not only his contemporaries, like John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates, but his readers as well. See also: an essay about the personal and literary relationship between Barth and Updike.
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
Elissa Schappell’s quick-witted book criticism now has an online presence with the debut of her Vanity Fair column, Just My Type. First up: a look at new fantasy fiction and a consideration of genre-bending novels, with a winning recommendation of Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon.
On the Media‘s Bob Garfield hosts “The Genius Dialogues,” a new interview podcast featuring recipients of the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called genius grants. First-season guests include Radiolab creator Jad Abumrad; Luis von Ahn, founder of the language learning app DuoLingo; microbiologist Manu Prakash; choreographer Elizabeth Streb; and writer and producer David Simon. We’ve hosted a few geniuses here as well, including Ben Lerner, Yiyun Li, and Karen Russell.