Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
Pamela Paul's recent New York Times piece on the "permanent reunion" Facebook has trapped us in and an 18-year-old's op-ed in the New York Post about why the shallow connections of Facebook led him to quit, have me feeling queasy about checking my timeline. So, I'm re-reading Edan Lepucki's essay about taking a social media detox instead. (Cue the cognitive dissonance of clicking the "like" button next to this entry.)
If you read Lydia Kiesling’s recent piece about Granta’s Young British Novelists and thought to yourself, “That John Freeman guy sounds like a grand ol’ chap, but I think I could do his job better,” then I have two things to say: 1) That’s kind of a rude thing to think to yourself. And 2) You’re in luck, I guess, because he’s in need of a replacement.
George Saunders delivered a little publicized convocation at Syracuse University this year. His main advice to the class of 2013 — be kind. "And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE," he said.
“If I was working against any existing Detroit narrative, it is the one where working-class black people exist as numbers or victims and not as fully-realized, complex people.” Angela Flournoy on her most recent work, The Turner House, a National Book Award finalist. We interviewed the author and reviewed the book.
This year, the good folks at Slate and the Whiting Foundation kicked off a new literary prize, intended to reward authors for great second novels. To wrap up the year, they’ve asked several winners of the prize, including Akhil Sharma, Helen DeWitt and Daniel Alarcon, to write short pieces about objects that symbolize the writing process for their books. (Akhil Sharma chooses a stopwatch, while Eileen Myles chooses a can of Cafe Bustelo.)