It’s a big season for Zadie Smith. While most of us eagerly await the publication of her latest book, NW, the author’s earlier work, On Beauty, is set to become a feature film. Smith’s first book to be dramatized on film was White Teeth, a UK mini-series from 2002 based on her book of the same name. (And available online if you have Hulu Plus.)
In the mid-90s, David Foster Wallace published a scathing review of a John Updike novel, Toward the End of Time, that became a key text for critics of the celebrated author. Now, at The New Republic, David Baddiel argues that Updike gets a bad rap, while Jeffrey Meyers backs up DFW’s position. It might also be a good time to read James Santel’s review of Updike’s Collected Stories.
Out this week: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney; The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson; The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan; Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman; Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett; and Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
Elmore Leonard was a very cinematic writer, yet why are most adaptations of his work so bad? Christopher Orr explores what he calls the “Elmore Leonard paradox” in The Atlantic. “Most of the early adaptations of Leonard’s crime work missed his light authorial touch, opting instead for somber noir.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris’s essay on why Leonard was such a good writer.
In the Prospect, an essay on anesthesia, 3D printing, teleportation, LSD, and other thought experiments on self-awareness. Also, this line: “If the spectrum of selfhood begins with the roundworm, surely it ends with Proust.”
Recommended Viewing: 1958 footage of the unveiling of Moscow’s six-meter high monument to Vladimir Mayakovsky. And while you’re at it, read his poem, “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovksy In A Summer Cottage,” which features one of the best closing lines in literature.
“A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.” Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it’s because he has “a bit of the opposition in him.” This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.