Print out your playing cards and start sifting through the comment sections of negative book reviews. It’s a new game called “bad review bingo.” (inspired in part by the frothy commenters to our own Janet Potter’s blistering review of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.)
New this week are Mark Haddon’s The Red House, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, John Lanchester’s Capital, and a collection of essays from Colm Tóibín, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families. Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table is now out in paperback.
“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?