Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.”) See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
In a piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Mesle reviews Mallory Ortberg‘s Texts from Jane Eyre, which “is not only a major work of bathroom humor reading, but also a significant contribution to feminist literary criticism. It is difficult to imagine another book that would both be a perfect stocking stuffer and an exemplary text for a seminar in literary studies.”
The Millions is delighted to welcome new staff writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee, whose first piece for the site publishes today. Marie is the author of Somebody’s Daughter and a novel about medicine forthcoming from Simon and Schuster. You may have seen Marie’s excellent writing in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues. She teaches fiction at Columbia.