A big week for books: Zadie Smith’s NW is out (read the first lines), as is Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, a collection of essays penned while he fought cancer (our essay on Hitchens’ death) (his collection Arguably is out in paperback today). More new books: Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Umberto Eco’s essay collection Inventing the Enemy, Davy Rothbart’s essay collection My Heart Is an Idiot, Frederick Seidel’s poetry collection Nice Weather, documentarian Errol Morris’s A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, and the Navy Seal book about the bin Laden mission. Also, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is now out in paperback (read Eugenides on the book’s genesis), as is Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winner The Swerve.
“Per one estimate, 96 of the 154 sonnets credited to Shakespeare contain rhymes that have since been lost to linguistic history.” The Atlantic writes on why we should be laughing more when we read Shakespeare. If you’d prefer to revere him, here’s a piece on Shakespeare as God.
“[Mark] Twain wasn’t above the contrivances of capitalism, even as he skewered them. . . From nonage to dotage, in dire straits or in the pink, he was always a capricious entrepreneur, counting the zeroes on an imaginary balance sheet.” The New Yorker writes about the humor writer’s many failed attempts to get very rich. From our archives: Twain and the Wild West.
On June 7th Canteen is hosting a battle in NYC’s KGB Bar. The event is called Outwrite and will pit Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of Hold Love Strong, against twelve two unknown volunteers in a flash writing competition. Alexander Chee will be reading from his new novel while the contestants prepare their weapons. This would make a great #LitBeat, and if you’re interested in covering this, get in touch with me here.
Recommended reading: Sean Singer reviews Poetry of Witness for The Rumpus and calls for readers to see “poems as ethical and political act[s] in the face of extremity.” Pair with selections from editor Carolyn Forché‘s essay on 20th century poetry of witness.
“You mean people who are now in their twenties? They won’t care. People who are in their twenties will have already done this stuff, so there’s now a record. When those people are old enough to be in charge of things—which by the way I don’t ever want them to be in charge of things, and luckily, I will be dead when these people take over—everybody will have that vulnerability. When everybody is vulnerable to something it’s not a weapon.” Fran Lebowitz talks to The Awl about old New York, writer’s block, and why the politicians of the future won’t have sex tapes.