“In this age of 140-character Twitter posts — not to mention a persistent undercurrent of minimalism in our literature — there’s something profoundly rejuvenating about the very long sentence.” From Hrabal to Joyce to Hugo, Ed Park explores the history of the literary long sentence.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a swell of books that focus on female friendship. The newfound popularity of writers like Elena Ferrante has given us a new wealth of books that explore this kind of relationship. At Salon, Dear Thief author Samantha Harvey examines why this is, as part of a larger discussion about her own novel and the literary landscape. You could also read our review of Harvey’s earlier novel The Wilderness.
At the Missouri Review blog, our own Tess Malone writes about the supposed death of the English major, which has lost a considerable amount of popularity in the last forty years in favor of “practical disciplines.” Among other things, she links to New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier’s Brandeis commencement speech, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Matt Seidel has a helpful guide for book clubs across the country: How To Tell If Someone In Your Book Club Is a Homicidal Maniac. One possible clue? He contributes to the Water for Elephants discussion by “telling anecdotes about torturing animals as a child.”
Look out, Darwin -- Wolfe's coming for you. Tom Wolfe's new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which we reviewed a couple of days ago, takes aim at Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky: "Like an industrial engineer who also makes bespoke dueling pistols in his shed on the weekends, Mr. Wolfe has made a side career of skirmishing with the eminati (his term) in an array of cultural fields. If fighting enlivens one’s mornings, Mr. Wolfe has had little need of caffeine."
"No novel gets uniformly enthusiastic reviews, but the polarized responses to The Goldfinch lead to the long-debated questions: What makes a work literature, and who gets to decide?" Vanity Fair has big questions and lots of opinions about Donna Tartt's latest novel, which we've covered pretty extensively ourselves.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of Emdashes' Ask the New Yorker Librarians series.Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Franzen's new memoir, The Discomfort Zone. Kakutani's wrath filled pen aside, Ed explains why she's right, and I have to agree. I looked back through the archives here and realized I hadn't elaborated on it much beyond writing back in 2003 that "Franzen's non-fiction bugs the heck out of me," but it put me off enough that I avoided reading The Corrections for a long time because of it.Speaking of reviews, it's a good thing Bob Dylan didn't get the Franzen treatment. He tells contactmusic.com that while he doesn't care about music reviews, the reviews for Chronicles Vol. 1 meant a lot to him: "Most people who write about music, they have no idea what if feels like to play it, but, with the book I wrote, I thought, 'The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they're talking about. They know how to write a book, they know more about it than me.' The reviews of this book, some of 'em almost made me cry - in a good way. I'd never felt that from a music critic, ever."Even though it seems like there's another "book banning" story in the news every week, the AP reports that the 405 challenges reported to the American Library Association last year is the smallest number since they started keeping track in the early 1980s. The challenges have dropped by more than half since the ALA started Banned Books Week to promote free expression. Kudos to the librarians.The second most brilliant magazine in the world (refer to the top item in this list for the first), The Economist has a characteristically well-considered a piece on the newspaper industry's timid efforts to embrace the Internet. Thanks to Millions contributor Andrew for sending this along.
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