New this week is The Tiger’s Wife, the hotly anticipated debut of Téa Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 from last year. Also new in the fiction aisle is Carol Edgarian’s Three Stages of Amazement. David Brooks’s latest pop sociology effort The Social Animal is now out — this one, excerpted in the New Yorker — sets itself apart from similar tomes by illustrating its findings through a pair of fictional characters. Now out in paperback are National Book Award winner Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, Ian McEwan’s Solar, and Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction blockbuster The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
“[Ludmilla] Petrushevskaya doesn’t write about isolated acts of depravity; she writes about universal ones,” says Michael Robbins in his review of There Once Lived a Girl. “What’s scary about her narratives is their implication that only the thinnest film, which might rip at any time, separates us from the chaos and breakdown they describe.” Our own Janet Potter also reviewed Petrushevskaya’s work this week, and she focused on the romantic hopes of its characters. “What’s remarkable,” Potter writes, “is not the love they find, but the fact that they’re looking for it.”
“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
It’s been nearly three years since an unknown man last marked Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday by leaving three roses and cognac at Poe’s grave. Today is Poe’s birthday and “Poe fans are planning one last vigil this week before calling an end” to the decades-long tradition of watching the mystery mourner pay his respects. (via)
The Swiss foundation Anne Frank Fonds is attempting to extend the copyright of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl by crediting Anne’s father as a co-author — even though Otto Frank writes in the prologue to the first edition that the book mostly contains Anne’s words.