John Steinbeck’s son criticizes the state of Texas for invoking Of Mice and Men‘s Lennie Small, in ruling that certain mentally retarded individuals can be sentenced to the death penalty. The great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville wonders where her great-great-great-grandfather’s editor was when he wrote Moby Dick.
“But the truth is that even very small actions can ripple outwards and have huge and far-reaching effects. In other words, the fires you start can be little, but don’t think they don’t matter, or that they won’t spread.” The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed Celeste Ng about writing about women, transracial adoption, and her novel, Little Fires Everywhere (featured in multiple Year in Reading entries).
According to a recent survey, Danes are the happiest people in the world. This came as a surprise, writes Mathilde Walter Clark, to most of her fellow Scandinavians, who know very well the unhappier elements of their daily lives. The problem, she suggests, is that words like “happiness,” “ambition” and “contentment” have subtly different meanings in different languages — in other words, happiness in Denmark isn’t the same thing as happiness in America. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel’s review of the Danish writer Jonas T. Bengtsson’s A Fairy Tale.
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.