David Mitchell, when questioned about his language and genre experiments, particularly in Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, responds: “It’s a bit like asking a duck billed platypus if it should be considered a mammal or a bird.” The Millions also profiled Mitchell, though we never settled either way on the bird/mammal issue.
"Long before feminism made fashion a guilty pleasure, my first experience of the sisterhood among strangers took place in a communal dressing room." Judith Thurman writes for The New Yorker about Women in Clothes and her experiences in thrift stores and clothing swaps. For more about the connections between feminism, dressing and literature, check out Rachel Signer's Millions review of the same anthology.
As a child, Xiaolu Guo hunted birds and toads to survive. Now, as a writer in Britain, she's written a memoir about her difficult childhood, which you can read more about in this review in The New Statesman. Sample quote: "Perhaps it is no coincidence that the reason that Guo gives for deciding to write in English is to be free of Chinese government censorship, a process that she describes as the wearing down of a rock’s sharp edges to a smooth pebble."
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program, the school’s literary magazine – Route Nine – gathered work from over 80 alumni to create a special Alumni Omnibus issue. The collection just went online recently, and it’s tremendous.
New this week: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue; The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis; The Outside Lands by Hannah Kohler; I'm Still Here by Clelie Avit; and Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
Thanks to recent advancements in digital scanning technology, it looks like the Herculaneum scrolls will be made legible after some two thousand years. The new technique allows for close study of the scrolls without causing irreparable damage to the papyrus via exposure to the moisture in the air, an issue which had dogged scholars for centuries. If the impermanence and tenuousness of writing is more your speed, here’s a bit on Twitter, instead.