In a New York Times op-ed piece on violence in children’s literature, Maria Tatar claims that “the savagery we offer children today is more unforgiving than it once was.” Is that really the case? Adam Gidwitz‘s A Tale Dark And Grimm (reviewed by the Times last November), which underscores the violence inherent in Grimm’s tales, can be read as a counterpoint.
"After ten years of painting, that is to say ten years of using an abstract, invented language, writing stories was the closest I had come to working in the realm of 'realism.' It was the most direct I had ever been in my art. Perhaps the most direct I had ever been. But, as I learned from the comments of my peers in workshop ('this isn’t a story,' 'this is poetry,' 'what is this'), my writing was something other than what we referred to as literary realism. By which I mean, the writing many have come to believe most accurately represents life." Susan Steinberg asks what happened to American experimental writing.
If you know that Patricia Highsmith wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, you know that she’s an exceptional authority on the workings of the criminal mind. At The Paris Review Daily, Dan Piepenbring digs up an old interview with the author, in which she describes the act of murder as “the opposite of freedom.” You could also read Tana French on Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train.
Elizabeth Kostova's follow-up to The Historian is out today. The Swan Thieves was one of our "Most Anticipated" books. Also out today is Day out of Days, a collection of stories by Sam Shepard, and Game Change, an account of the 2008 presidential race from John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, a pair of big name political reporters.
"What a horrible silent noisy people they are ... My feeling toward those mice is flat-out fear. It has to do with the unexpected, unbidden, unavoidable, virtually silent, persistent, ulteriorly motivated appearance of these animals.” It looks like Franz Kafka really didn't like mice. Reiner Stach, author of the definitive two-part biography of Kafka (The Decisive Years and The Years of Insight) has released a new book of Kafka ephemera called Is That Kafka? 99 Finds full of fascinating facts that never found a place in the biographies at large. This Millions review of Stach's biographies might also suit your Kafka fancy.
"[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one." The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews. The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton's memoir My Life: The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history. This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!