Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
Some copies of Mad About the Boy – the latest installment in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones series – included passages from British actor David Jason’s memoir, which was being released on the same day. Supposedly the entire thing was one big mistake. Over at the LA Times, however, Dan Zevin imagines “a juicier scenario.”
Looking to get into Philip Roth? Not sure where to start in the perennial Nobel favorite’s massive ouevre? Thankfully, the novelist Gabriel Roth is here, swooping in with the only guide you’ll ever need. He explains why Portnoy’s Complaint made the splash it did, why Goodbye, Columbus put Roth on the map, and why the character of David Kepesh is critical to understanding Roth’s legacy. Related: Keith Meatto picks out ten lessons from the author's work.
As a young girl in the 1980s, Melissa Carroll played with My Little Pony dolls, in part because, as she puts it, "I knew I'd better have one." Nearly thirty years on, she's fascinated by the new surge of interest in the dolls, especially the interest displayed by the men who call themselves Bronies. At The Rumpus, her Sunday essay on the rise of the Brony and gender dynamics in America.
Over at Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz talks about his new book Mad Men Carousel and why audiences felt such a profound attachment to the protagonists. Despite their flaws, Seitz argues that it is the consistency in their behavior that endeared us to characters like Don and Betty, literal misfits though they were. Still having trouble admitting the show is over? This may help.
Recommended Reading: Sarah Gerard records her phone calls with inmate Matthew Seger as he tries to find time to write in prison. “I feel like all of these ideas I have will someday, maybe, be of some use. I don’t want to let any of them go.” We interview Matthew Parker, the author of the graphic memoir, Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education.