Philip Roth, who just authorized Blake Bailey to be his official biographer, has written an “Open Letter to Wikipedia” wherein the author states his grievance with the site’s entry for his novel The Human Stain. Related: can we just give this dude the Nobel already?
“One lie I tell is that we care, generally—human beings—about each other. We could not, I tell myself in the moments just before the night’s dark hour, create The Odyssey or King Lear or Thomas and Beulah without a profound sense of The Other. Surely, were it true this thing’s a joke, nothing more, and a cruel one at that, we’d have no Dickinson, no Yeats, no freakin’ Rumi, read by Bly, loud on an old tape deck while I shower.” Pablo Tanguay on the art of lying.
“In the six years that I wrote the book, I moved around a huge amount. I was in five or six different states, and spent a lot of time on the road. I think if you’re out in this country so much, you just see a lot of weird stuff. Weird, ominous stuff.” Talking with Laura van den Berg.
Picture books have always been a good way to teach your children difficult concepts. They cover everything from bodily functions to the makeup of modern families. At Slate, Gabriel Roth writes about a picture book that taught his child about death. You could also read T.K. Dalton on teaching your children about gender.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.
Five years ago, Jacques Lezra was asked to translate a book of untranslateable words. “The project provided me, and my co-editors,” he writes, “with a vivid sense of the history of how people think, and how societies think differently from one another.” This week, the fruits of their labor were published by Princeton University Press, and to celebrate the occasion, the publisher has released six PDFs of sample entries: begriff, kitsch, media, polis, right, and saudade.