Ilan Stavans’s introduction to the quadricentennial edition of Don Quixote is available on the Literary Hub website. As he explains it, the narrative is both baffling and perfect: “What I like most about Don Quixote is its imperfection. I wasn’t wrong in my teens about the sloppiness of the writing; it is just that my attitude was too pedantic. It is, unquestionably, a defective narrative. Cervantes is often criticized as a numb and careless stylist.”
The Great Gatsby debuted in 1925 to poor sales and mediocre reviews. So how did it become one of the most famous novels in America? At Slate, Cristina Hartmann explains how Fitzgerald’s opus, which netted the author royalties worth a grand total of $13 in his lifetime, went on to become a classic. Related: our own Bill Morris on a book about the novel by Sarah Churchwell. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
In the mid-90s, David Foster Wallace published a scathing review of a John Updike novel, Toward the End of Time, that became a key text for critics of the celebrated author. Now, at The New Republic, David Baddiel argues that Updike gets a bad rap, while Jeffrey Meyers backs up DFW’s position. It might also be a good time to read James Santel’s review of Updike’s Collected Stories.