“The idea that a 'book of the year' can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer.” Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian about why the Man Booker Prize “is bad for writers.” And in these pages, Mark O'Connell asks why we care about literary awards at all.
Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, died today at the age of 88, according to a statement released by his publisher. Pirsig's work explored a system of thought called the "Metaphysics of Quality," which has been defined as "a thesis that quality is the basis of reality, and that this understanding unifies most East Asian and Western thought."
"Many writers write vexed introspection, or detail-oriented reporting, or counterintuitive cultural commentary, or lifestyle journalism. But so far only Didion has done all four in perfect synthesis, a prose that, at its best, can fire on every cylinder and work on multiple fields of the imagination at once." In support of the Kickstarter project for the documentary on Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, Nathan Heller looks back over Didion's writing career, her "imaginatively seductive" nonfiction writing and her carefully constructed confessionalism in a piece for Vogue.
"To be awake was a thing many had dreamed of, while continuing to sleep for years, like the famous princess in her coffin of glass. Once I opened a Chinese fortune cookie that said, Some will attain their heart’s desire, alas." Revisiting this fantastic Anne Carson poem, "The Day Antonioni Came to the Asylum (Rhapsody)," over at The Paris Review. Carson's newest, Float, is due out in a couple of months.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan drops today. Our review. Also out recently are Walks With Men, a novella by Ann Beattie, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a novel from Aimee Bender. This week also sees the long-awaited posthumous publication of Henry Roth's An American Type. Another recent posthumous publication: Robert Walser's mysterious Microscripts.