An Iranian opposition leader said Gabriel García Márquez’s News of a Kidnapping accurately reflected his life under house arrest. As a result, the book is flying off the shelves in Tehran. But why do you think Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is so big in the UK?
Columbia once moved its twenty-two miles of books by sending them down a really, really long slide. As The Paris Review documents, in 1934, the university stocked its then-new Butler Library with a slide that ran from Low Library to the new building. (No word on whether the slide is secretly used to this day.)
Over at The New Yorker, Roa Lynn recalls going to Pablo Neruda’s home and getting him to write her a poem: “Would he read a few of the poems that I had brought with me? To my delight, he said that after lunch he would take his customary nap and after that he would read our poems. If he liked them, he would write something for our book.” Pair with this Millions essay about Neruda’s house in Isla Negra.
Granta talks to some translators of Russian literature about what they're working on, and we learn that Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the first couple of Russian translation are working on a 600-page collection of stories by Nikolai Leskov, an underappreciated contemporary of Dostoevsky. Previously: The Millions interviews P&V.
The Rake takes note of the New Yorker's particularly dark reading of Goodnight Moon.Iain Hollingshead gamely responds to being awarded the "Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award" for his debut novel Twentysomething, which included such turns of phrase as "everything is pure white as we're lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks."With a few celebs getting in trouble for racist outbursts this year Malcolm Gladwell (ever thoughtful) comes up with a way to figure out who's really being offensive and who's just dumb.Maud points to a new blog from one of my favorite publishers, NYRB Press.Dozens of year end-lists floating around here and elsewhere, but I always take special note of Jonathan Yardley's year-end column because it is always thoughtful and sometimes surprising.To do (as soon as I have the time): listen to the Bat Segundo Show that features Edward P. Jones.
John McWhorter, linguist and author of What Language is (And What it Isn't and What it Could Be), takes a look at the history of spoken and written language in an effort to understand how text messaging, IMs, and other informal forms of written language impact literacy.
Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, a billionaire, a philanthropist, and an amateur book club leader. He posted his summer reading list on his website, The Gates Notes. You won't find any beach reads because Gates prefers nonfiction such as However Long the Night: Molly Melching's Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls and The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?. You can read the latter along with him.