Elvis Costello is calling the hefty price tag on his new box set “either a misprint or a satire” and advising fans to buy a Louis Armstrong box set or to wait until the discs included in his own box set are availble at a cheaper price “assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.”
A controversial new book art exhibit is set to open at the Mansfield Library of the University of Montana on January 7th. The show, "Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate," comprises works by 100 artists all of which are made out 4000 books published by a white supremacist organization, The Church of the Creator, and sold to the Montana Human Rights Network by a disaffected member. Read the strange story of the genesis of the exhibition and see some of the works here.
Proclaiming the death of the book has been in vogue nearly as long as the book itself. Leah Price presents a short history of our pessimism for the future of the written word.
Happy(ish) birthday, Gregor Samsa! Here’s a piece from NPR commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. Kafka insisted that the story's insect should never be drawn, but of course Vladimir Nabokov had his own ideas about that. To round out the Kafka news, here’s a review from The Millions of Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Decisive Years.
"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.
"All war literature, across the centuries, bears witness to certain eternal truths: the death and chaos encountered, minute by minute; the bonds of love and loyalty among soldiers; the bad dreams and worse anxieties that afflict many of those lucky enough to return home." In an omnibus review for The New York Times Michiko Kakutani looks at the fiction and journalism being written about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including recent Year in Reading alum and National Book Award winner Phil Klay's Redeployment and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War, "the one book that most fluently and kaleidoscopically captures both the micro and the macro of Iraq." She also wonders, and attempts to explain, "why has there been no big, symphonic Iraq or Afghanistan novel?"
"The real world is massive and chaotic beyond the scope of any story, but the novel has always been the storytelling medium that could come closest to capturing it. And the novels that dared to really try – from Hugo to Tolstoy – are often the ones that have endured." That's not to say, of course, that bigger is always better, and in an article for The Guardian Damien Walter argues against the current glut of epic, serialized fantasy novels taking their cues from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. As Walter puts it, "There are great fantasy short stories, novellas and single novels that deserve much wider audiences, but are sidelined by the industry’s unhealthy fixation with the serial format. It’s time for the fantasy genre to tell some new – shorter – stories."