It was shocking to find that New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid had died, of an asthma attack of all things, while reporting in Syria, especially when he’s put himself in harm’s way so many other times and emerged unscathed. Tyler Hicks, the Times photographer who was with Shadid when he died and who escorted his body out of Syria was, along with Shadid, among of the four journalists captured and held in Libya less than a year ago in the early days of the uprising there. Shadid’s reporting was brave and essential there and elsewhere. His death comes just weeks before the release of a memoir, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.
The Tournament of Books rolls along with a few first round upsets (Congratulations, Sarvas!), but the highlight thus far might be a glimpse of Junot Díaz's one-of-kind victor's shirt from last year.Meanwhile, Stop Smiling offers up a Díaz interview.John Leonard's son compiles a concordance to his father's vigorous criticism, in which "thug," "libidinal," and "linoleum" make the top 10.The breathless inventorying of Roberto Bolaño's posthumous papers continues.Our friend Eliza Barclay reports from the Andes, finding little cause for optimism.Victor Lavalle becomes the most recent essayist spurred to eloquence by the Obama inauguration.Also from the Atlantic, Hitchens and Marx: On again?James Wood and Claire Messud get grilled - sort of - by The Harvard Crimson: he's the chef, she does laundry.The people who put William Kristol on payroll show themselves capable of good judgment. Congratulations, Ross Douthat!Wikipedia find of the week: beghilos (aka calculator spelling)Audrey Niffeneger is not feeling the recession. The NYT says $5 mil for The Time Traveler's Wife follow-up.NPR explores the doodles of powerful people.CAAF spends some time with the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus and pauses on "limn."Clay Shirky elucidates, perhaps better than most media pundits have, why newspapers need to be "thinking the unthinkable."
“I’ve been writing about 'real' characters and placing them in a shaped, or fictional, world. Writing TransAtlantic, there was never really a plan, at the early stages, to question the line between fiction and nonfiction. I just went on instinct, and then these worlds started to braid.” The Rumpus interviews Colum McCann.
“For Germany, the Wagners are what the Atreidai are in Greek mythology. One of them, Atreus, committed a grave sin, casting a curse over all subsequent generations, beginning with Agamemnon and Menelaus, followed by Iphigenia, Orestes and Electra. The family is marked by enmity, as is the Wagner family.” On a certain influential composer.
The New York Times recently asked Jennifer Szalai and Mohsin Hamid why there isn't a Great American Novel written by a woman? Both writers concluded that there is no such thing as the Great American Novel. "But if the idea of the Great American Novel is blinding us to exquisite fiction written by women, then perhaps its harm is exceeding its usefulness," Hamid wrote. We think that's a bit of a cop out. But a few women showed up on our list of the Greatest American Novels.