Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker comments on why we still write to win prizes (and hails Mario Vargas Llosa for having “a lively personal life that includes once punching out another future laureate…Gabriel García Márquez, reportedly over something to do with Mrs. Vargas Llosa. The Nobel thus not only crowns a career but provides the basis for a fine future Javier Bardem/Antonio Banderas movie.”)
Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante's Divine Comedy that aren't the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: "The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring." Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven't even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
"Many students do not rate their knowledge very highly… they often doubt the possibility of mastering both pen and sword. A problem like this one, I realized not long ago, demands some special assistance. Thus, with all the earnest discretion of a Victorian lady in distress, I have appealed to none other than Mr. Sherlock Holmes." The New Republic posts an essay on teaching Sherlock Holmes at West Point.
"The Goldfinch is a grand nineteenth-century novel in that it is an 800-page chronicle of capitalism, a paean to the ways in which the world turns on the questions of who can or can’t pay for what, and how these abilities and inabilities mold us over time. Like the life events and relationships it depicts, it purports to be about love but is actually about money. This portrayal of twentieth century North American society is accurate, but also, just as in life, both exhausting and demoralizing.” On Donna Tartt’s latest novel. (You could also read Adam Dalva’s take on the book.)
Few people have heard of Iceberg Slim, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been important. His autobiography, published in 1967, tells the story of his life as a pimp, and one of his novels, Trick Baby, was made into a 1972 movie. He’s been called “the Mark Twain of hip-hop.” At Salon, Scott Timberg talks with Justin Gifford, the author of a new biography of Slim.
A lot has already been said about Nicolas Winding Refn's newest and arguably most provocative film, Neon Demon. At The Rumpus, Jeffery Edalatpour examines beauty and its extremes, and also asks a couple questions of the director, himself: "Refn has revised the mythology of Aphrodite; she dons as much armor as Athena, enjoying nothing but the hunt. When I asked the director if he could cite any visual influences, his flat affect implied disdain for my simplistic question: 'I just photograph what I find interesting. I believe that women are more powerful and more interesting than men. It’s just very much what I like to fantasize about.' Fair enough."