In Karen Russell‘s Swamplandia!, there is an enchanting place known as the abandoned Library Boat. “It held a cargo of books,” Ava Bigtree explains, “In the thirties and forties, Harrel M. Crow, a fisherman and bibliophile, had piloted the schooner around our part of the swamp delivering books to the scattered islanders. Then Harrel M. Crow died and I guess that was it for the door-to-door service. But his Library Boat, miraculously, had survived on the rocky island, unscavenged, undestroyed by hurricanes. It was an open secret, utilized by all our neighbors.” Now something similar has moored in England’s canals. And, across the Atlantic, one New Yorker is keeping his own open secret.
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”
Man Booker judge Colin Thubron expressed frustration with gushing book blurbs, which he says "almost blackmail" readers: “you’re either intellectually or morally incompetent if you don’t love this book or you’ve failed if you haven’t understood it.” Our own Bill Morris tackled the age old question—”To Blurb or not Blurb”—a few years ago.
"[Mark] Twain wasn’t above the contrivances of capitalism, even as he skewered them. . . From nonage to dotage, in dire straits or in the pink, he was always a capricious entrepreneur, counting the zeroes on an imaginary balance sheet." The New Yorker writes about the humor writer's many failed attempts to get very rich. From our archives: Twain and the Wild West.
Tonight at the Pacific Standard Fiction Series in Brooklyn, Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine (which, according to Edan boasts "one of the best voices to come out of literature in the last…oh, ever, probably"), will be reading with Robert Lopez, author of Kamby Bolongo Mean River. As usual, I'll be hosting; it would be great to see you there. For more information, see Time Out New York.
“At the outset, Nair is in Sierra Leone to keep tabs on his old friend and uses the occasion to practice a little freelance extortion, stealing unspecified multinational secrets on a flash drive and sending them back to his girlfriend in Amsterdam. The first 50 pages are like a Johnsonian take on Graham Greene’s humid morality-play potboilers. Nair keeps meeting shifty European acquaintances and distrusting everything they say.” John Lingan reviews Denis Johnson’s new novel.