With Naipaul and Theroux making nice, the Times asks Christopher Hitchens what makes for a good literary feud these days: “A really first-rate bust-up must transcend the limits of ‘an entertaining side show’ and involve playing for high moral and intellectual stakes”
“What if, instead of simply critiquing Go Set a Watchman’s failure, we tried to analyze it? The new, older work makes more sense if we read it as an attempt to accomplish two tasks: first, to master—unsuccessfully, it turns out—the smart-magazine style that Harper Lee developed in her student journalism; and second, to write in a genre that often relied on the ironic elisions typical of ‘smart style’: the midcentury social-problem novel.” Tom Perrin on Harper Lee and the social novel. Pair with Michael Bourne’s Millions review.
W.W. Norton puts together a project similar to our Year in Reading (and with some participants in common): Writers Recommend.Another clever batch of recommendations: Village Voice asks several notables to recommend their favorite “obscure” books.Three Percent reveals its 25-book longlist for the “Best Translated Book of 2008” (Bonus Link: The Prizewinners: International Edition)A conversation with South African poet and anti-apartheid activist Breyten BreytenbachTodd Zuniga’s (of Opium Magazine and Literary Death Match) “favorite writers we haven’t heard of yet.”Best book cover designs of the year. (via 3% and kottke)Maud reproduces the memo behind the huge reorganization at Random House (which itself is just one part of the belt tightening hitting the publishing industry in recent weeks.)
Willard Spiegelman’s provocative essay in the VQR’s recent State of American Poetry issue, “Has Poetry Changed?” incited quite a few responses. One of the better rejoinders came from William Childress, whose response, “Is Free Verse Killing Poetry,” raises some excellent points. “Poetry needs readers, not writers,” writes Childress. “But how many poets read any poetry but their own?”
If you were never satisfied with Hamlet’s answer to the famous “to be or not to be?” question, now is your chance to change it. Ryan North rewrote Hamlet as a choose-your-own-adventure book, To Be or Not To Be. You can play as Ophelia, Hamlet, or King Hamlet and choose from more than 110 alternate deaths. Brain Pickings got a first look at some of the book’s excellent illustrations.
“It’s part of Jane Austen’s genius that she can bring the maximum of drama and momentousness to the most minimal of occasions.” Here is David Denby from The New Yorker on reading (and listening to) Austen’s Emma, which is celebrating its two-hundredth year in print. We’ve brought you a bunch of bits on Austen in the past.