Our review of A Widow’s Story took Joyce Carol Oates to task for not mentioning that she had remarried not long after the death of her husband. In the New York Review of Books, Julian Barnes recently made the same point. Responding to the Barnes review, Oates defended her choice, but diplomatically added, “In retrospect I can see that I should have added something like an appendix.”
The B.O.M.M. blog looked at our recent item Best American Short Stories: By the Numbers, in which we crunched some numbers behind the Best American Short Stories series, and created a nifty word map of the short story titles that appeared in the series from 1978 to 2008. “The most frequent word for a title (not including articles and such)? Life. It has appeared 9 times.” If anyone else decides to mine some interesting discoveries from the B.A.S.S. data, let us know.
Nowadays, Huck Finn is as a lightning rod for racial issues, which explains why so many schools have banned the book over the years. But in the late 18th century, when Mark Twain published it, the novel was more controversial as a critique of childhood in America. In the Times, Year in Reading alum Parul Sehgal reads Huck Finn’s America, a new book by Andrew Levy that sheds light on the context of the era. You could also read our founder C. Max Magee on reading Huck Finn as a child.
What did we read in the Obama era? Christian Lorentzen has some answers. Apart from individual books like The Flamethrowers and The Art of Fielding, he comes up with some genres that have dominated the past eight years, including autofiction, works of trauma and fables of meritocracy. (You can probably guess where Leaving the Atocha Station ends up.)
According to a report for The Wall Street Journal (paywall), Barnes & Noble will be lessening its floor space allotted to traditional books in order to make way for more Nook displays. Over at Melville House’s blog, MobyLives, publisher Dennis Johnson speculates that this move could signify the end of the road for Barnes & Noble as a bookseller.