“Jealousy baffles me. It’s so mysterious and it’s so pervasive. … And yet I’ve never read a study that can parse to me its loneliness, or its longevity, or its grim thrill. For that, we have to go to fiction because the novel is the lab that has studied jealousy in every possible configuration. In fact, I don’t know that it’s an exaggeration to say that if we didn’t have jealousy, we wouldn’t even have literature.” New York Times Book Review editor Parul Sehgal takes listeners to church in her TED Talk, “Ode to Envy.”
Lolita has been, for decades, a great inspiration to cover designers, and all those great covers inspired architect John Bertram to hold his own cover design contest to see who could best re-imagine Nabokov’s classic. The resulting competition has now inspired a book, coming in August, with a cover by designers Sulki & Min that references a letter Nabokov sent to his American publisher, Walter J. Minton of Putnam, in April 1959 about the cover design for Lolita. “I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls. If we cannot find that kind of artistic and virile painting, let us settle for an immaculate white jacket (rough texture paper instead of the usual glossy kind), with LOLITA in bold black lettering.” More: An interview with Bertram.
Today arrives Barbara Kingsolver’s latest, Lacuna, “an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover.” Also out are a couple more of those nifty “Olive Editions” from HarperCollins, this time of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Update: There’s a new edition of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation too.
Football Book Club is back from its relaxing bye week — and in preparation of the impending Environmental End Times, these truly decent, patriotic human beings are reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. So pick up your copy today, read along, and learn how we’re fucking up the planet in ways you never even imagined possible. Also: if this week’s book is making you feel slightly depressed and/or down in the dumps and/or bummed, check back with FBC all week for essays on Speak by Louisa Hall.
Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.