Graduation season is upon us, and college students across the nation are listening to esteemed commencement speakers. Some get treated to the likes of Bill Watterson, Jon Stewart, or Barbara Kingsolver. (I got to listen to The Rock.) In the thrill of the moment, it feels like it hardly matters who’s at the podium. One wonders if audiences really grasp the material in these speeches right away, or if the speaker’s words only become clear later on. Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s iconic Kenyon address in 2005, our own Kevin Hartnett tried to find out.
According to The Secret Literary Life of Augusto Pinochet author Cristóbal Peña, the Chilean dictator “was tormented by an intense inferiority complex, which he tried to deal with by collecting books.” A recent article in The New York Times provides a look at that book collection, which totaled around 50,000 books and has been valued at around $3 million.
“His books used to be ink on paper; now we have to squint through the cloud of the Ellroy Phenomenon.” And the James Ellroy Phenomenon looks like it will only continue: the author has announced plans for a second L.A. Quartet, the first of which, Perfidia, comes out next week.
Hope everyone’s holiday is going well. I’ll be putting up one or two more “Year in Reading” posts and then The Millions will most likely be dark until the New Year. But first, a couple of links:One of my favorite end of year lists is the bookfinder.com “Top 10 out of print books”: the main list and broken down into categories.Stephen King names his favorite reads of the year, including a forthcoming novel by A.M. Homes. His number one book, which he calls “the best mystery of the decade,” is LBC pick, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.Millions Flashback: Tis the Season
Before his death of natural causes in 2008, Henry Gustave Molaison had the world’s most famous brain. At 27, Molaison permanently lost the ability to form new memories, which led to him spending the rest of his life in “thirty-second loops of awareness.” In the LRB, Mike Jay reviews a new book on Molaison, Permanent Present Tense.