Jed Perl on Susan Sontag’s journals: “The fascination of Sontag’s prose—and its sadness—is in the extent to which she is describing herself as a person who can never really get beyond a schematic kind of thinking and feeling.”
RIP Günter Grass, who passed away in a hospital in Lübeck, Germany this morning at the age of 87. Grass, who won the Nobel in 1999, achieved fame upon publication of his debut novel, The Tin Drum. For more on the author’s life, you can read Ranbir Sadhu’s review of his memoir.
What’s the best book Mary Roach has read recently? Tim Johnston’s first novel, Descent: “I read the last 30 pages in an airport, 10 feet from the gate, and did not notice the boarding announcements. I missed my flight for literature.” Bonus: Here’s Roach’s interview with The Millions from a couple of years back.
A lot is written about artists just starting their careers, and about those artists with a lifetime of work to look back over, but in a piece for The Enemy Barry Schwabasky considers the difficulty of being somewhere in the middle of an artistic career. After all, “most artists do, for better or worse, live through what’s come to be known as their midcareer. It’s just that they don’t often do so with ease. … The middle of the journey sometimes seems to be all about losing the way.”
“She was furious about the way the female college students of the next generation had been programmed to regard getting an MRS. degree as the be-all and end-all of their experience in higher education. She was enraged by the way the psychiatric profession regarded housewives’ unhappiness as a symptom of an out-of-whack libido. She was angry at the way the economy appeared to see her entire sex as simple consumption machines who built national prosperity by buying new appliances for the kitchen and searching madly for the perfect laundry detergent.” Betty Friedan’s second wave classic The Feminine Mystique turns fifty.
Out this week: Swing Time by Zadie Smith; Born a Crime by Trevor Noah; The China Sketchbook by I. Allen Sealy; Writing to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman; The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler; and Forever Words by the late Johnny Cash. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.