Recommended viewing: Tobias Wolff tried to convince Stephen Colbert that The Catcher in the Rye is J.D. Salinger’s best book. “Do we need to be reinforcing our kids’ bad behavior as teenagers with the idea they could be a character in a great novel? Dad, I wasn’t disobeying you, I was exploring modes of alienation,” Colbert joked.
Check out a new essay from Zadie Smith in NYRB on the uncanny, Schopenhauer, and Anomalisa. “That we believe ourselves to be separate from each other, and separate from the apparent objects of our desire, was, for Schopenhauer, the root of our suffering.” For more on Smith, read our review of NW.
What did we read in the Obama era? Christian Lorentzen has some answers. Apart from individual books like The Flamethrowers and The Art of Fielding, he comes up with some genres that have dominated the past eight years, including autofiction, works of trauma and fables of meritocracy. (You can probably guess where Leaving the Atocha Station ends up.)
What’s the best book to introduce someone to the late Terry Pratchett? The Color of Magic, his first Discworld novel, is an intuitive choice, but it may not be the right one. In The Guardian, Sam Jordison kicks off a debate about the ideal entree to Pratchett’s work. You could also read our tribute to the author.
Emdashes notes that the New Yorker is issuing an update disk for its Complete New Yorker DVD-ROM set. She also spotted the Complete New Yorker being sold on a portable hard drive.At the Washington Post, an academic writes in defense of the Google Book Search Library Project: “Only a small fraction of the huge number of books published today are printed in editions of more than a few thousand copies. And the great works of even the recent past are quickly passing into obscurity. Google has joined with major libraries to make it possible for all titles to remain accessible to users.”At the SF Chronicle, a report that somebody is finally holding the folks behind the JT Leroy hoax responsible: “Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Mary Jane Skalski of Antidote Films, an independent film company that bought the rights to JT LeRoy’s novel, Sarah, have sued LeRoy and/or Laura Albert (who was LeRoy) and Judi Farkas, Hollywood manager of the writer. The New York Times reports that in the suit, filed in New York, the filmmakers want $45,000 they paid in options and $60,000 in costs they paid in developing the project.” You’ll recall that back in January I asked What about JT Leroy? (via Ed)The corporate-sponsored literary popularity contest The Quills is back. Here are the many, many nominees. I don’t have much to add to what I wrote about The Quills last year: “If we are dissatisfied with the Booker Prize or the National Book Award or the Pulitzer, the Quills, which casts the net very wide and relies on voting from the reading public, have been presented as a populist alternative. The results are less than satisfying. It is not news to anyone that the reading public likes Harry Potter and books by Sue Monk Kidd and Janet Evanovich. I hold nothing against those bestsellers, but naming them the best books of the year does little to satisfy one’s yearning to be introduced to the best, to have an encounter with a classic in our own time. We like those bestsellers because they entertain us, but while monetary success is the reward for those entertaining authors, awards have typically honored books with qualities that are more difficult to quantify.”Another book banning attempt: The Miami-Dade School Board has sided with a parent who wishes to remove Vamos a Cuba (A Visit to Cuba) and 23 other books from school libraries. The pro-book banning contingent contends that the books fail to give an accurate picture of life in Cuba under Castro. The Miami Herald has the latest.
“I want to show you our world as it is now: the door, the floor, the water tap and the sink, the garden chair close to the wall beneath the kitchen window, the sun, the water, the trees.” Apples, plastic bags, teeth In The Guardian, Karl Ove Knausgaard attempts to explain the world to his unborn baby, object by object. Pair with our review of his epic, My Struggle.
“While others … have explored the more serious contexts of online humor, particularly when it tilts into the grim and mean, in Epic Fail [Mark] O’Connell makes a useful addition to what I’ll refer to as Lulz Studies by attempting to put this variety of Schadenfreude in cultural-historical perspective.”