“What those who care about books must appreciate is that the boundaries between canonical and noncanonical have never been ironclad in African-American literature.” Clark C. Cooke writes for the LA Review of Books on black crime fiction and the rise of a “new African-American literary scene.”
George Packer at Lapham’s Quarterly writes of meeting a young Burmese reader of Charles Dickens: “‘All of those characters are me,’ [he] explained. ‘Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can…I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.’” (via Book Bench)
New this week is a debut collection of loosely linked stories that’s been getting some attention. Military families are the common theme in Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men Are Gone. Another newly released debut is Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters about a Shakespeare scholar’s three daughters, all named after characters from the Bard’s plays. Also new this week, a tome dedicated to the “hot” condiment of the moment, The Sriracha Cookbook.
Vanity Fair remembers Christopher Hitchens, a favorite of ours who was always fun to root for, and who, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, died last night. Andrew Sullivan remembers an email exchange from happier times. Hitchens’ ebook from this year, The Enemy, is in our Hall of Fame, and we reviewed his memoir, Hitch-22, last year.
The “grande dame of the Beat Generation” has died at age 90. Carolyn Cassady passed away last Friday near her home in England. She was the inspiration for Camille, Dean Moriarty’s overburdened second wife in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Yet Cassady was a writer in her own right and published two books, Off the Road and Heart Beat: My Life With Jack and Neal, about how the Beat Generation was misunderstood.
Robert Darnton at the New York Review of Books considers the feasibility of creating a National Digital Library: “I know: the devil can cite Jefferson. Anyone can cull through the papers of the Founding Fathers in order to find quotations in support of a cause. But I can’t resist.”