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.
Two years ago, Allison Parrish produced a diary of an expedition through “fantastical places that do not exist.” The twist? The diary was generated by a computer program, which extracted more than 5,700 sentences drawn from Project Gutenberg and later recombined at random by “switching out grammatical constituents.” An extract of the finished work, interspersed with Parrish’s nonfiction essay, can be read here.
On a more optimistic note, New Directions, New York City’s inestimable and long struggling (but “long dazzling!”) publishing house, will be throwing itself a 75th birthday party on Thursday, October 27. (They just redesigned their website and colophon, too.)
It’s hard to describe exactly who Delmore Schwartz was, for the simple reason that he did so many notable things. The man wrote poetry, edited The Partisan Review and The New Republic, and wrote a canonical short story at the age of twenty-five. In The Nation, Vivian Gornick makes the case for a new accomplishment, arguing that “Delmore Schwartz is to Jewish-American writing what Richard Wright is to African-American writing.” You could also read Gabriel Brownstein on life as a Jewish writer.