The Morning News continues its ongoing Reading Roulette series by sharing “A Light Head” by Olga Slavnikova. While the author is a contender for the 2013 Russian Booker Prize, TMN correspondent Elizabeth Kiem doesn’t need to wait to award “best line” to this little ditty: “The Russian dilemma posed by Dostoyevsky—‘Shall I let the world go to hell or skip my tea?’—has been resolved in favor of the tea.”
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
Out this week: The Mothers by Brit Bennett; The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky; Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar; Future Sex by Emily Witt; Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner; Upstream by Mary Oliver; and Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
In her “Classic Russian Writers: For Teh Internets” column at McSweeney’s, KA Semënova “updates classics of Russian literature with modern technologies to see if the insights of those writers hold up today.” Her first two pieces explore Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog” and Vsevolod M. Garshin’s “The Signal.”
Booker-snubbed, but still widely anticipated, Philip Hensher’s King of Badgers is out today. As are Ali Smith’s There But for The, Erin Morgenstern’s uber-hyped debut The Night Circus, and The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate, who wrote here about writers’ work getting better as they get older.
Expert walker and poet Jon Cotner, coauthor of Ten Walks/Two Talks, will lead a set of excursions on NYC streets during the month of June. Walkers will be given two lines to repeat to strangers, in an attempt to break down social barriers: “Anonymity dissolves. Spontaneous societies arise.”
Sure, the various TV recaps, screencaps, and Paris Review fan fiction will be a help, but let’s be honest, how long will those last? You could get through all of it today, in a binge. What you need, my friend, is a good book to sate that Mad Men craving you’ll be having now that it’s off the air again. Well, here’s a list of 10 great ones. That should do it. Oh, yes.