Yea, yea, it’s Charles Dickens’ birthday. I’m sure you’ve heard, or at least been told by Google. But he’s only one artist born on this day. In addition, there’s James Yancey aka J Dilla, one of the most influential hip hop artists and producers of all time.
With the preliminaries out of the way, The Morning News Tournament of books unveils its first head-to-head matchup today, Teddy Wayne’s Kapitoil versus Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Don’t miss the commentary that accompanies each judgment (some say it’s the best part of the whole thing.)
We thought we had a better chance of seeing Odin than Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on TV, but after the HBO deal fell through, the novel is finally being adapted for the small screen by FremantleMedia. Bonus: Gaiman’s Anansi Boys is also being adapted into a BBC miniseries by RED. To brush up on Gaiman’s interest in mythology, read our review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Need to know how to tell if someone is or is not dead? How to leave a party gracefully? How to avoid the plague? Luckily the writers of the Middle Ages had a how-to book for everything, even if that advice does include killing bed bugs by “Spread[ing] Gun-powder, beaten small, about the crevices of your bedstead” and then lighting it.
You’d expect excessive swearing, smoking, and sex in a Bridget Jones novel, but a few copies of Mad About the Boy have accidentally included 40 pages of English actor’s David Jason’s memoir, My Life. Publisher Penguin Random House has admitted to the hilariously postmodern mistake. To find out what’s really in the book, read an excerpt at NPR.
Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes … it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.