A big week for books: Zadie Smith’s NW is out (read the first lines), as is Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, a collection of essays penned while he fought cancer (our essay on Hitchens’ death) (his collection Arguably is out in paperback today). More new books: Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Umberto Eco’s essay collection Inventing the Enemy, Davy Rothbart’s essay collection My Heart Is an Idiot, Frederick Seidel’s poetry collection Nice Weather, documentarian Errol Morris’s A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, and the Navy Seal book about the bin Laden mission. Also, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is now out in paperback (read Eugenides on the book’s genesis), as is Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winner The Swerve.
“His life’s work, and his stunning prose, teaches us to better understand political influence, American democracy, and the true power of biography.” The National Book Foundation just announced Robert Caro as this year’s recipient of the National Book Awards lifetime achievement medal. Definitely pair with this piece by our own Michael Bourne on Caro’s epic literary ambitions.
“Even weeks after its publication, no one agrees on What Happened and Clinton’s ability to assess her own past. But in post-truth America, the truth that becomes history may well be decided by star-rating.” The Guardian considers how Amazon reviews became the new battlefield of US politics. Namechecked in the piece: Nancy MacLean, whom we interviewed about her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, here.
In 1817, the painter Robert Benjamin Haydon invited several guests over for what he called an “immortal dinner.” Why the bombastic name? The guests included Keats and Wordsworth, whom Haydon wished to introduce to each other. In the WaPo, Michael Dirda takes a look at The Immortal Evening, a new book about the event by Stanley Plumly.
Last Friday marked the feast day of Francis de Sales, better known as the patron saint of writers and journalists. The saint, who lived in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, got his title thanks to his propensity for using flyers and pamphlets to convert people to Catholicism. At The Paris Review Daily, Dan Piepenbring reads the saint’s most famous work, Introduction to the Devout Life.
In the introduction to her interview with the author, the inimitable Parul Sehgal described Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel, Americanah, as “a thrilling and risky piece of writing that takes on taboos, shatters pieties, and combines forthright prose, subversive humor, and a ripping good story.” If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.