Did you know Jonathan Lethem‘s a really good essayist? Thought so. Did you know he has a 450-page collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, coming out in November? Me neither. An amuse-bouche, on Norman Mailer, is up at the L.A. Review of Books.
Peg Plunkett was an 18th-century Dublin courtesan who decided one day to make some money by publishing a series of memoirs. Now, over two hundred years after Plunkett sketched out her life story, Professor Julie Peakman has rewritten all three volumes for a modern audience. In a piece for The New Statesman, Sarah Dunant reviews her edition of Plunkett’s oeuvre.
“Fifty Shades of Grey follows this long history of class ascendancy via feminine wiles, but does so cleverly disguised as an edgy modern bodice-ripper,” writes Heather Havrilesky in the latest issue of The Baffler. Throughout the piece, Havrilesky explores the way luxury brand fetishism and conspicuous consumption fueled E.L. James’s “female-friendly” pornography phenomenon
Chances are you’ve heard that in a recent interview, Claire Messud responded to a patronizing question about one of her characters — “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you?” — by giving her interviewer a smackdown that resonated across the blogosphere. At Page-Turner, several authors (including Rivka Galchen, Jonathan Franzen and Year in Reading alumna Margaret Atwood) offer their own takes on the matter of “likeability.” (There’s also this piece by our own Emily St. John Mandel to consider.)
Lev Grossman offers some first thoughts on Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, the David Foster Wallace biography written by D.T. Max due out in September. More interestingly, Grossman wonders whether we’re nearing the death of hysterical realism, that manic, maximalist genre James Wood defined in his review of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.