Today’s edition of Book Reviews Worth Reading: Kathryn Schulz‘s first official outing as the book critic for New York Magazine (on the late Anthony Shadid‘s House of Stone) and Anti-Matter author Ben Jeffery‘s take on Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. (While you’re at it, you might as well read Elaine Blair nailing Houellebecq at the NYRB (in the second-best possible way)…or our own Bill Morris‘ défense.
“It was spring. Byron was leaving England forever, a cloud of infamy hanging over him. (He is one of the few people you can write something like that about and have it be true; that is part of why he’s so satisfying.)” Via The Awl: the adventures of John Polidori, literary vampire and doctor to Lord Byron.
New this week: Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney; Carousel Court by Joe McGinniss, Jr.; How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee; Moonstone by Sjón; and Still Here by Lara Vapnyar. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
Recommended listening: Radio Open Source has been broadcasting Anton Chekhov‘s short stories, with voices including Chekhov translator and biographer Rosamund Bartlett, author Andre Dubus of House of Sand and Fog, and numerous other writers, actors, and scholars. “Chekhov makes you want to be a better person. He makes you want to live a better life.” (Unpersuaded? Consider our essays on why reading Chekhov, unlike booze or smokes, will make you a better person in 2014.)
This past Wednesday Tracy K. Smith officially began her term as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. After adding her name to the guest book traditionally signed by poet laureates upon the start of their one year term, she read aloud from previously published poetry collections and introduced new work. Ron Charles from the Washington Post reports “[a]mong her most powerful new pieces were ‘found poems’ constructed from archival letters that African American veterans sent to President Lincoln asking for pensions they were owed.” Smith is the first poet laureate appointed by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Stay tuned for her upcoming efforts to engage rural communities in poetry discussions.
We recently published our review of Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Now comes news that yet another Murkami book will be hitting shores before the year is out. The Strange Library, already available for pre-order, is 96 pages long, will ship in December, and will include “full-color art throughout in a lavish volume designed by Chip Kidd.”