The Guardian‘s Books of the Year feature should get you warmed up for our forthcoming Year In Reading series. We’ve wrangled together some great names this year. You can whet your appetite with our 2010 installment.
“Well, continuing with my policy of baring my soul, Dwight Garner said something like, the book was like one of those satellite photos of North Korea when I talked about the second marriage. I obviously had very little access to Updike from ‘77 on, really. And I cheated a bit by using Ian McEwan as my spy in the Updike household. First of all, Updike definitely did pull up the drawbridge and retire into his castle and I thought, in a sense, that this should be respected. He had decided on his persona, at that point—the highly professional man of letters. And I thought, why not let him go out with that persona intact?” At The Awl, Elon Green talks with Adam Begley about his new biography of John Updike.
Here at The Millions, we know the importance of a book’s cover (for evidence see here, here, here and here), so Margaret Sullivan‘s new project, Jane Austen Cover to Cover, has our attention. A sample of covers for Emma, available on The Paris Review‘s blog, “provides a fascinating glimpse into a variety of publishing cultures, and it reminds that even our classics are mutable, pitched to appeal to any number of sensibilities, their literary status in constant flux per the dictates of the market.”
“Tracing the journey of a mediocre actor and Holocaust survivor ‘touched by some mysterious higher design’ as he forges and impersonates his way through the war and then back to the city of his birth, the story is part Samuel Beckett and part Isaac Bashevis Singer, with a sudden final bolt of O. Henry. It has the flavour of a morality tale, but what’s most fascinating to me is how difficult it is to derive a moral from it, or rather how easy it is to derive more than one and how openly they stand in conflict with each other.” Kevin Brockmeier extols the fiction of Leandro Sarmatz.
As Maxwell’s prepares for its last couple days of existence, New York Magazine brought together the place’s original founder, it’s current co-owner, and a huge number of musicians to provide an oral history of Hoboken’s best concert venue. You might recall my piece from last month on the institution’s demise.
Recommended Reading: Kavita Das on why writers shouldn’t romanticize rejection. “Not only is it harder for writers of color to get published, but when rejecting our work, publishers tell us that what we’re writing about is too narrow and niche and won’t appeal to mainstream audiences.” Our own Bill Morris writes about the sorry state of rejection letters and literary magazine editors take your questions about them.
It takes a certain skill to link Taipei by Tao Lin, My Struggle Part I and Part II by Karl Ove Knausgaard and an old book on Italian painting in a single essay, but Zadie Smith is (naturally) the writer for the job. In a new piece for The NY Review of Books, she asks the reader to “imagine [a drawing of a corpse] represents an absolute certainty about you, namely, that you will one day be a corpse.”