At Salon, Kyle Minor listens to an audiobook recording of Joan Didion’s Salvador and finds that it remains “immediately relevant to a new reader whose memory of its context is more the kind of memory that arises from having read books about history than one that arises from having been old enough in 1983 to understand the meaning of phrases such as death squad, or body count, or mechanism of terror.”
“An appeal for the revival of the negative book review, then, is a remonstration against forced and foppish praise, where everything is good and so nothing at all is good.” In The Baffler, Rafia Zakaria writes in praise of negative book reviews and decries the “enfeebling of literary criticism.” From our archives: our own Emily St. John Mandel writes about bad book reviews.
Happy(ish) birthday, Gregor Samsa! Here’s a piece from NPR commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. Kafka insisted that the story’s insect should never be drawn, but of course Vladimir Nabokov had his own ideas about that. To round out the Kafka news, here’s a review from The Millions of Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Decisive Years.
“When people are young adults, they have these packs, or tribes, that they form. Those connections are very real, and yet another, more powerful social narrative is that you’re supposed to pair off and have children—and never see your friends again. In the case of the gay world, there’s an additional element, in which you’re supposed to spin away from your straight friends and be part of a gay world. Both ideas of adulthood are sad to me, and I was attracted to a group of friends as a lost paradise, and one that there’s no way to keep.” At The Paris Review Daily, Anna Altman talks with Caleb Crain about his new book, Necessary Errors.
Here’s a novel idea: using literature to map out the emotions of a time period. (1940s? Sad. 1920s? Happy. 2010s? …Don’t ask.)