Mark Mann on going to the gallery and looking at art: “The fact is, nobody knows what art is or why people make it. This is blatantly disturbing.”
Francis Spufford’s fictionalized book Red Plenty looks to the 1950s-1960s “cybernetics” initiative to answer one of the main questions about the USSR: “Could the Soviet project to build communism have succeeded, or was it doomed to failure from the start?” In his review for The Hoover Institution, Marshall Poe contends the latter.
“It’s possible that when it comes to books, we have overestimated the means of delivery and have underestimated the importance of the content conveyed in the media.” A recent study demonstrated that preschoolers demonstrated the same level of reading comprehension regardless of whether the story they were, ahem, consuming came in digital or analog form, reports MOBY Lives. For more on the print vs. screen debate, see Alix Christie on the persistence of physical books; and of course it would be criminal not to mention our own founder C. Max Magee's killer compilation The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books.
New this week: My Name Is Lucy Barton by the Pulitzer laureate and Year in Reading alumna Elizabeth Strout; The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun; And Again by Jessica Chiarella; American Housewife by Helen Ellis; Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa; This Census-Taker by China Miéville; Eleanor by Jason Gurley; The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne; and Even the Dead by John Banville's alter-ego Benjamin Black. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2016 Book Preview.
Charles Bock (Beautiful Children), in a recent interview, sounding perturbed: "Where are you right now? I’m in a writer’s room in Manhattan. There’s all these other people with their fucking computers doing their stupid little bullshit. It feels pointless. You wanna feel like it matters. It’s hard to do that when you’re in a room like this. At least it’s quiet."
Half of all restaurants that open close," WORD owner Christine Onorati says. On the other hand, Red Lemonade publisher Richard Nash hopes former Borders employees can find ways to continue "operating as the matchmakers of the book ecosystem."
The University of Texas at Austin has recently acquired Kazuo Ishiguro’s archive. The collection reveals early drafts, a pulp Western novel that Ishiguro thought had been lost, and his early attempts at songwriting. "For many years," he said, "I've been in the habit of keeping a large cardboard box under my desk into which I throw, more or less indiscriminately, all papers produced during my writing that I don't want to file neatly and take into the next stage of composition: earlier drafts of chapters, rejected pages, scraps of paper with scribbled thoughts, repeated attempts at the same paragraph, etc.”