The true confessions of Lev Grossman, book reviewer: “There was a time when I actually believed, because I was an ass, that as a critic I was an avenging angel with a flaming sword, and that part of my job was to help rid the culture of books that were sucking up more of the literary oxygen than they deserved.”
It exists! The long-lost letter from Neal Cassady that inspired Jack Kerouac to write On the Road will be auctioned next month at Christies, ending an 18-month-long battle over its ownership and another 60-year-long battle over its existence. As Kerouac said, "It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves."
What is deracination, and why is it key to understanding American fiction? In her novel Housekeeping, Pulitzer laureate Marilynne Robinson defines it as “the free appreciation of whatever comes under one’s eye,” inspired by the Western sentiment of “feeling no tie of particularity to any single past or history.” In the Boston Review, Jess Row states that deracination is “a long-lived and nearly universal trope in white American literature,” claiming it represents “an American ideal: not to strip from the roots, but to de-race oneself.”
“Can we ever pinpoint a person’s true identity? … How can we point to something in the world with complete accuracy, without also being meaninglessly redundant? Harpo’s answer to ‘who are you?’ is a visual-gag version of the Buddha’s infuriatingly honest answer to the same question. When asked who he was, he would say, gesturing to himself: I am thathagatha (the one who is like this).” On Groucho Marx, nihilism, and the destruction of comedy over at Slate.