Even if you read and watch all of these pieces about Robert A. Caro, it’ll still amount to only a fraction of the time necessary to read one of his books. So here goes: a typical Sunday for Mr. Caro; not one but two fake Caro Twitter accounts (plus a real one); Mr. Caro stops by The Daily Show; and The Passage of Power gets reviewed by us, NPR, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and The Wall Street Journal.
Jonathan Lee, whose novel High Dive was published this week, writes about the “deep disquiet” of finishing your book. “There are lots of books on how to write, and lots of books on how to publish, but I’ve spent the last few weeks looking for a book with a title like How To Get Through The Period Between Finishing A Book and Seeing It In A Bookstore Without Losing Your Entire Grip on Reality. I have failed to find it.”
It’s a big week for new books. Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke is now out, as is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy, Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge, and The Funny Man by John Warner, who recently appeared in these pages. Philip Roth’s American Trilogy is getting the Library of America treatment. (Capsule previews of all of the preceding titles are available here, incidentally). New in non-fiction is Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin. And out in paperback: none other than Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.
Millions staffer Mark O’Connell immersed himself in the “transhumanist” movement for more than a year, checking in on such characters as Zoltan Istvan, the quixotic U.S. presidential candidate perhaps best-known for driving a coffin across the country. O’Connell’s book, To Be a Machine, which details dreamers like Istvan envisioning human existence liberated from the outmoded confines of the human body, publishes this month.
Ben Lerner, whose 10:04 has been reviewed in Bookforum and the New York Times, made an appearance on The New Directions blog to recommend four books of poetry that have at one point or another graced his nightstand. (No word on how he winnows down his list of books to be stacked on said nightstand, but our own Sonya Chung can offer advice.)
“I began to wonder: what would a manifesto for bad poetry look like? Would it differ either superficially or deeply from the art’s graver manifestos? It really wouldn’t have to. It would merely have to persuade, and persuasion sounds very much the same whether it is honest or dishonest. If it was any good it would hold great attractiveness as a snappy piece of writing, but, if followed, it would be certain to produce bad poetry. Some harmless sophistry. In this it would be more effective than any positive manifesto, because, if guided well, no-one who sets out to write a bad poem is going to accidentally write an excellent one.” Erik Kennedy lays out a manifesto for bad poetry, titled “Precepts for Perfection in Poetry,” for The Rumpus. For a counterpoint, pair with our own Nick Ripatrazone‘s look at very good and very sad poetry, “The Saddest Poem Ever Written.”