In his review of a collection of rejected New Yorker covers titled Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See, Jeet Heer details the magazine’s history of straddling the divide between bourgeoisie complacency and bohemian angst.
Charles D’Ambrosio‘s Loitering has officially made it into our Hall of Fame. It was also a finalist for the PEN award for the Art of the Essay. Now the book’s preface is available on the PEN website, just in case all the book’s popularity and prizes haven’t yet convinced you to read it.
Kevin Courier is re-running interviews he did for the CBC in the 1980s on the Critics At Large site. Here’s his 1986 interview with Barbara Brenden, author of The Passion of Ayn Rand. Brenden’s book, Courier writes, “not only unveiled this polarizing figure” of Ayn Rand, but it “also illustrated the perils of blind faith and idolatry.” Given the Objectivist’s influence on a certain vice presidential candidate, this one’s worth a read.
Are people losing interest in fiction that “offers more questions than answers?” In her book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley suggested that modern readers have little taste for uncertainty. At The Rumpus, Rob Roberge asks how much this contributes to popular disinterest in literature.
Patrick Somerville’s latest novel, This Bright River, was recently reviewed in The New York Times by Janet Maslin, who found the book to be, among other things, “soggy.” Unfortunately, some of her critique was based on a mistaken reading of Somerville’s work. I’ll let Patrick take it from here.
“What a horrible silent noisy people they are … My feeling toward those mice is flat-out fear. It has to do with the unexpected, unbidden, unavoidable, virtually silent, persistent, ulteriorly motivated appearance of these animals.” It looks like Franz Kafka really didn’t like mice. Reiner Stach, author of the definitive two-part biography of Kafka (The Decisive Years and The Years of Insight) has released a new book of Kafka ephemera called Is That Kafka? 99 Finds full of fascinating facts that never found a place in the biographies at large. This Millions review of Stach’s biographies might also suit your Kafka fancy.
Did your MFA program offer impractical courses like “Problems in Modern Fiction”? At the Ploughshares blog, Rebecca Makkai offers some suggestions for more useful classes, such as “Introduction to Despair,” “Pretending You’re Talking to Terry Gross When You’re Alone in the Car,” and “The Art of the Flirty Author Photo Grimace.” Pair with: Our interview with Makkai.