Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, (who I interviewed last February) is having a very good year. She has a spot on the NYT list of the 10 Best Books of 2011, and last month HBO optioned the novel for what they describe as a “half hour comedy series.”
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn's column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area's largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering "Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?"I'm glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it's been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn't a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because "she was angry at library staff for being rude to her."
“My whole life, I had used stories, both my own and other people’s, to check out of grocery store lines and long bus trips, stints in doctors’ waiting rooms, heartache, my own depression, and finally of the tedious exhaustion of new motherhood. Now, here I was in this 15-by-20 room, where monitors and alarms were constantly beeping, and there was no way out, except the unimaginable.” Alyson Foster, author of Heart Attack Watch, writes about her son’s illness and her love of reading.
"i need more sprawling post-modern novels NOW!" is the plea at Ask MetaFilter.Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library has thousands of images from their collection online. It's just like being in the dusty stacks.I've been enjoying emdashes lately. It's a blog about my favorite magazine.
"You’d be hard-pressed to find a book that was at once so bold in style and ambitious in structure and so much fun to read." The Guardian asks indie publishers about the books that made their year, including Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue (whose own Year in Reading you can find here).
A new anthology out from Da Capo Press, Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, includes an essay by David Foster Wallace's widow, Karen Green, on how books helped her cope with his death: "I'll try not to use the word survive. I think I've determined, by trial and error, that certain underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared books, in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, are beneficial after a trauma. What was it the realtor called it? 'The Incident.' Books can be helpful after an Incident." (Thanks, Diavanna)
You can read the entire first chapter from László Krasznahorkai’s latest novel, Seiobo There Below. We reviewed the work on our site last month. Meanwhile, the Hungarian author has recently received an unwelcome invitation. As literary scholar Tibor Keresztúry notes (via George Szirtes’s translation), “a certain G Fodor Gábor, the strategic director of the Századvég (Century’s End) Foundation … suggests that [Krasznahorkai] should shoot himself in the head.”
For its spring issue, the Paris Review will be publishing Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich—its first serialized novel in forty years—with original illustrations by Leanne Shapton. It's a chance to discover Bolaño’s famous lost novel almost a year before it appears in book form.