Turns out Americans aren’t the only ones who adore snark. The novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones has won the first Hatchet Job prize from the British website Omnivore for his blistering takedown of Michael Cunningham’s latest novel, By Nightfall. Mars-Jones beat out Geoff Dyer’s slam of Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. “It isn’t terrible,” Dyer wrote, “it’s just so…average.”
Alexandra Alter interviews National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates about the success of Between the World and Me. As he puts it, “The best part of writing is really to educate yourself. I don’t want to be anybody’s expert. I came in to learn.” Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s Millions piece on Coates’s epistolary essay.
How do you write an accurate memoir without perpetuating stereotypes? Jesmyn Ward struggled with this when writing about absent black fathers and husbands in her book Men We Reaped. “I also had to figure out how much of the truth do I tell, how do I make the truth as balanced as I possibly can? How do I make these people as complicated and as human and as unique and as multifaceted as I possibly can? For me, that was the way I attempted to counteract some of that criticism,” she told The Rumpus.
We’ve written before about the By the Book series, in which the Times invites well-known authors to talk about their favorite books. This weekend, they interviewed the historian James M. McPherson, who recalled his childhood reading habits and cited his favorite examples of Civil War literature. Pair with: Darryl Campbell on the Civil War series by Ken Burns.
New this week: Flings by Justin Taylor; We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas; The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar; Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark; The Undertaking by Audrey Magee; Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher; and a new translation of a French children’s book by Lydia Davis. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.