At a party thrown by Tom Stoppard in 1972, Kingsley Amis bumped into Roald Dahl, and was encouraged by the Matilda author to write a children’s book in order to make a quick buck. “The little bastards’d swallow it,” Dahl said.
In her new book The Sixth Extinction, New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert makes the case that we’re living in the sixth massive die-off of species in our planet’s history. Corraling evidence from zoologists, environmentalists and more, Kolbert argues that human activity is the cause of this latest event. In a review over at Vulture, Kathryn Schulz writes that Kolbert “makes a page-turner out of even the most sober and scientifically demanding aspects of extinction.”
Fresh Air’s Terry Gross sits down with Jonathan Franzen to talk about Purity, writing, and the possibility of parenthood. “I’ve always thought of myself as a comic novelist. It’s a tough road to hoe because comedy means light in people’s mind. There was an ambitious part of me that kind of chafed and was secretly relieved when the comedy was overlooked, but at a certain point, it becomes wearing for people not to get the humor.” Pair with our review of the novel.
Punctuation can be as important as the prose. At Vulture, Kathryn Schultz discusses the five best punctuation marks in literature. The list includes this delightful parenthetical from Lolita, “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three…”
Out this week: The Novel: An Alternative History by Steven Moore; Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat; F, a new book of poems by Franz Wright; and The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd, which Katie Rogin reviewed for us last week. For more on these and other interesting titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview.
Mark O’Connell’s recent essay in these pages discussed how long, challenging novels can hold you captive (in both the good and bad senses of that phrase). Now, in the Times, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott come to the defense of “the slow and the boring” in film, responding Dan Kois’s Times Magazine piece confessing he’s “suffering from a kind of culture fatigue and have less interest in eating my cultural vegetables.”