Fun Fact: “Literature” was an Olympic event until 1948. In fact, several other events were also listed under the umbrella of “Sporting Art,” as Olympic historian John MacAloon points out to NPR. For example, W. B. Yeats’ brother, Jack Butler Yeats, won the “Mixed Painting” silver in 1924; some people even won “Medals for Making Medals!”
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.
Out this week: The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch; Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke; A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume; The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin; and My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
It appears that our own Sonya Chung's consideration of underappreciated Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov played a role in getting one of his stories published in a forthcoming issue of PEN America.
“I suspect ‘chess rage’ and ‘road rage’ are neighboring neural impulses.” Tom Russell at Guernica Magazine has written a fascinating essay on a summer spent playing chess in Bryant Park and the unexpected artistic beauty of the game. Here’s a cursorily-related review of The Chess Machine, a book which features an unbeatable chess-playing automaton controlled by a dwarf.
Out this week: The Past by Tessa Hadley; Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt; The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela; The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian; Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington; The Children's Home by Charles Lambert; Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris; and Jakob's Colors by Lindsay Hawdon. For more on these and other new titles, check out our just-published Book Preview.