Two hotly anticipated collections of stories are out this week: Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and Dan Chaon’s Stay Awake. Also new this week are Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Ramona Ausubel’s No One is Here Except All of Us, which she wrote about here recently, Dalkey’s new edition of The Recognitions by William Gaddis, and a new volume of William S. Burroughs’ letters.
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”
“For about 15 years, every time I had a really good dance party that went late, with people lolling around drunk and exhausted, at about 2 a.m., I would hand out paper and ask everyone to draw a vomiting cat. . . . I ended up with an incredibly thick file of drawings, some by people who went on to be published cartoonists and writers.” The New York Times reports that (Year in Reading alum) Jonathan Lethem has sold his papers to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, a trove that includes comic books, manuscript drafts, notes, letters, and yes, drawings of vomiting cats. You can read our review of Lethem’s Dissident Gardens, which may or may not feature hairballs in a crucial plot point, here.
“It turned out that the most successful Christmas records tended to have two common qualities: catchy, upbeat melodies and imagined unlikely scenarios for anthropomorphized yuletide characters.” Move over, Frosty! It’s beginning to look a lot like … an unseasonably warm December. Here is a brief history of Christmas songs and of their often-surprising rise from corny kitsch to global sensation.