“But reading Finnegans Wake is more than a matter of collecting one’s favorite quotations – even if there is a huge pleasure in that, especially if you admire truly terrible jokes.” Michael Wood writes an essay on James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, and the origins of clever wordplay for the London Review of Books.
Some writers find their voices by heading off to Europe. Others (like Thoreau in Walden) head off to the woods instead. At The Rumpus, David Biespiel writes about the year he moved to Vermont, and what it meant to see himself as “leaning into” his youth. Pair with our own Anne K. Yoder on Ken Kesey and the Oregon coast.
University Of Chicago Press has come out with a new edition of a somewhat forgotten classic in the campus novel genre. Randall Jarrell was a National Book Award-winning poet who wrote only one novel, Pictures from an Institution, about the fictional Benton College. The Kenyon Review published the opening of the novel in its Winter 1953 issue. It begins: “Half the campus was designed by Bottom the Weaver, half by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Benton had been endowed with one to begin with, and had smiled and sweated and spoken for the other.”
How do readers recover from an abominable weekend but with a reading list, in this case one suggested on Twitter by Jay Varner, a writer and instructor based in Charlottesville. Varner links out to 12 articles about “why so many continue to believe an unequivocally false historical narrative surrounding the Confederacy,” including pieces by New Orleans’ mayor Mitch Landrieu, Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose Between the World and Me made our roundup from last year of the best political fiction (yes, we do realize it’s decidedly not fiction).
“Arguably versioning is a practice reserved for when a literary translator isn’t available or perhaps doesn’t actually exist who can bridge both languages. At worst, it has and can be done by colonisers or writers from major languages mangling minor literatures for sport and without care from a position of imbedded prejudice, power and authority.” Jen Calleja on the difference between translating and versioning of an original text, over at The Quietus.
After five years, Lev Grossman has released the final book in his Magicians trilogy, aptly reviewed in the Sunday Times by our own Edan Lepucki. At Slate, the Awl cofounder, Year in Reading alum and novelist Choire Sicha looks back on the series as a whole. After reading through all three entries, Choire poses a simple but hard-to-answer question: is main character Quentin truly the central figure of the books? It might also be a good time to read our interview with Grossman.