The process of “Russification” is almost as old as Russia itself, yet to see it take shape in the present day can be quite distressing. In particular, Vladimir Putin’s recent proposal in Nezavisimaya Gazeta — in which the prime minister called for a “Russian canon” of literary works — has some people worried about its insidious potential for propaganda. Count Alexander Nazaryan among that group.
Caleb Crain has strong reservations about the New York Public Library's proposed $350 million remodel, or, in his view, the library's shift away from "its research mission." To put his concerns bluntly, he asks, "What problem is the Central Library Plan (CLP) meant to solve?" He then vividly enumerates the problems with the proposal. For those of you wondering what can be accomplished with an essay, there's this: Mr. Crain's got him landed on one of the project's advisory panels as a result.
StoryBundle, a new service that lets you pay as much (or as little) as you want for preselected bundles of ebooks, announced on Wednesday that their latest bundle is a collection of writing about video games. Among other things, it includes two books by Jordan Mechner, the man behind Prince of Persia, as well as two issues of Kill Screen.
Our own Emily Mandel may have been onto something with her "catastrophic" summer reading list; dystopia seems to be all the rage this summer. The WSJ sets Rick Moody's The Four Fingers of Death in "a dystopian United States that is halfway between Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano and Woody Allen's Sleeper." The SF Chron calls Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story "literature's first dystopian epistolary romantic satire." And later this year, as we noted this month, will be Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez, which focuses on a cultish community in the dystopian aftermath of a flu pandemic.
“Despite a glut of English translations (well over a hundred, by my count),” writes Dante scholar Robert Pogue Harrison, “New versions of the entire [Divine Comedy] poem or individual canticles continue to appear in rapid succession—six in the last decade alone.” Over at the New York Review of Books, he investigates three of the latest: Dan Brown’s Inferno, Mary Jo Bang’s Inferno, and Clive James’s Divine Comedy.
Sam Sacks takes a look at the “two major acts” in the life of Vasily Grossman, the Jewish-Russian author perhaps best known for his monumental account of the Stalingrad siege, Life and Fate. (Bonus: Life and Fate was picked by Stephen Dodson as his Year in Reading pick back in 2011.)