Mark McGurl author of the book that got everyone talking about MFA programs, The Program Era, mounts a spirited defense against Elif Batuman’s much discussed review of the book. Among his ripostes: “One can be all for the deflation of liberal pieties without being a gleeful ignoramus about it, as though literary journalism needs its own Ann Coulter.” Zing!
“As energy loss is an unavoidable fact of mechanics — no mechanism can be 100% efficient, and the best a designer can do is manage the loss as productively as possible — so translation loss is similarly unavoidable,” explains Mark Davie, who recently translated Galileo’s Selected Writings. But what if the “energy loss” isn’t a failure of the work’s translator so much as a failure of the organization commissioning (or failing to commission) the translation? What if, as is the case for much Arabic literature, “the process [of selecting works for translation] is based on a political consideration” that deprives Western readers of the best Arabic literary work?
Recommended Viewing: 1958 footage of the unveiling of Moscow's six-meter high monument to Vladimir Mayakovsky. And while you're at it, read his poem, "An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovksy In A Summer Cottage," which features one of the best closing lines in literature.
New this week: Voices in the Night by Steven Millhauser; Gutshot by Amelia Gray; The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy; The Turner House by Angela Flournoy; The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma; The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman; Lurid and Cute by Adam Thirlwell; The Given World by Marian Palaia; The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman; Diamond Head by Cecily Wong; and Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
In random-but-awesome news, Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG reports on a new project by Dutch earth scientists to piece together what they're calling an "atlas of the underworld." Using CT scans to visualize "invisible landscape features—the ghostly remains of entire continents—hidden inside the planet," the project will reveal a surface within earth's surface. See also: our review of Where You Are, an anthology of sixteen alternative maps by a range of artists and writers including Geoff Dyer, Valeria Luiselli, and Leanne Shapton.
Hypochondriacs rejoice! A team of scientists from the University of Rochester is working on a “machine-based algorithm” in the same vein as Google Flu Trends—but this time based on Twitter and smart phone data—to predict, with about 90% accuracy, when you’ll next get sick.
"Riordan’s books prompt an uneasy interrogation of the premise underlying the 'so long as they’re reading' side of the debate—at least among those of us who want to share Neil Gaiman’s optimistic view that all reading is good reading, and yet find ourselves by disposition closer to the Tim Parks end of the spectrum, worried that those books on our children’s shelves that offer easy gratification are crowding out the different pleasures that may be offered by less grabby volumes." In an essay for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead considers questions about what children should be reading through the lens of the Percy Jackson series.
"Palestinian literature is a literature of exile, a quest for identity in a hostile world, a writing of fractured lives and displaced hopes, a record of a human tragedy." In the most recent issue of Asymptote Journal, Fakhri Saleh looks at Palestinian writing since 1948. Pair with Words Without Borders’s special Palestine issue, selected and introduced by Nathalie Handal.