In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
“In the days after the procedure I was sometimes so exhausted by movement that I would wait patiently for someone to come in and give me a paper cup of pills that was almost, not quite, out of my reach. But somehow, I would always contrive to get my pen in my hand, however far it had rolled… When Virginia Woolf’s doctors forbade her to write, she obeyed them. Which makes me ask, what kind of wuss was Woolf?” Hilary Mantel writes a diary on hospitalization for the London Review of Books.
George Bernard Shaw had a strange relationship with Nietzsche. Alternately envious and dismissive of the German philosopher, Shaw once said he wanted to be an intellectual in Nietzsche’s mold, though he also felt Nietzsche’s thinking was addled and self-absorbed. In an essay for The New Statesman, Michael Holroyd tries to make sense of Shaw’s views.
“To the pathless wastes, into thin air, with no reviews, no best-seller lists, no college curricula, no National Book Awards or Pulitzer Prizes, no ads, no publicity, not even word of mouth to guide me!” For her new book The Shelf: From LEQ to LES, Phyllis Rose undertook the ultimate stunt in writing-about-reading: an unsorted shelf with no logic at all.
When did romance novels get such a bad rep? They weren’t always derided as somehow lesser than other books. At Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth delves into the history of the modern romance novel, exploring how particular stereotypes latched on to the popular genre. You could also read Julia Fierro on sex and the literary writer.
An excerpt of the lost and recently found Alexandre Dumas novel The Last CavalierAn assessment of poetic cliches in VQR. The surprise: some actually improve your chance of getting published.Jennifer Gilmore interviews the criminally underrated Max Apple.That novelists’ strike not working out so well.Despite some withering condescension, Robert Gottlieb has interesting things to say about John Steinbeck.Penguin UK offers up some alternative storytelling techniques with its We Tell Stories site. The first is a tale by Charles Cumming told by messages inserted into Google Maps. (Thx, Mrs. Millions)Books cops like. (Thx, Laurie)The trend of the massive hyper-expensive book continues.Daniel Radosh points out that the New York Times has, yet again, published a trend piece on bloggers getting book deals.And finally… The Catalog of Unfit Toys: Finding Delight in the Defective