Two new studies reaffirm what good readers (and Quixote and Pechorin) have long known—when you identify with a fictional characters, you are likely to subconsciously emulate them.
Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy that aren’t the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.” Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven’t even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
Today’s edition of Book Reviews Worth Reading: Kathryn Schulz‘s first official outing as the book critic for New York Magazine (on the late Anthony Shadid‘s House of Stone) and Anti-Matter author Ben Jeffery‘s take on Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. (While you’re at it, you might as well read Elaine Blair nailing Houellebecq at the NYRB (in the second-best possible way)…or our own Bill Morris‘ défense.
Out this week: The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt; The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard; Like A Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina; Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne; The Dog’s Last Walk by Howard Jacobson; and Less by Andrew Sean Greer. For more on these and other new titles, go read our just-published book preview.
Beauty is in the eye of the writer. Adelle Waldman discusses why many novelists fail to address female beauty in a meaningful and nuanced way. “Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny—they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.”
In an excerpt of Out of Time, a new book on “the pleasures and perils of ageing,” author Lynne Segal makes a case that many iconic male writers — among them Philip Roth, John Updike and Martin Amis — display in their works a belief that the slow loss of virility is one of the most tragic effects of growing older for men. Citing passages from Toward the End of Time and Portnoy’s Complaint, she finds evidence that these writers’ depictions of masculinity reveal “obdurate social hierarchies of gender and ageing.” (Related: Keith Meatto on advice you can glean from Philip Roth’s work.)
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