“Chekhov’s contemporaries wondered: What sort of Russian writer was he? He had no solution to the ultimate questions. With no ‘general idea’ to teach, wasn’t he more like a talented Frenchman or Englishman born in the wrong place?” (And our own Sonya Chung argues that personal character was in fact his “general idea.”)
For Angelenos: Elif Batuman will be reading from The Possessed tonight at 7:00 at the LAPL Central Library. A conversation with LA Times Books Editor David Ulin follows the reading. More information and reservations here (tickets are free).
According to Chris Richards at the Washington Post, the Ivy League rockers of Vampire Weekend are the unapologetic Bright Young Things of our recession era. Drinking Darjeeling on Daddy's yacht never looked so good, he says, and their second album, Contra, out yesterday, sounds pretty good too.
“For about 15 years, every time I had a really good dance party that went late, with people lolling around drunk and exhausted, at about 2 a.m., I would hand out paper and ask everyone to draw a vomiting cat. . . . I ended up with an incredibly thick file of drawings, some by people who went on to be published cartoonists and writers.” The New York Times reports that (Year in Reading alum) Jonathan Lethem has sold his papers to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, a trove that includes comic books, manuscript drafts, notes, letters, and yes, drawings of vomiting cats. You can read our review of Lethem's Dissident Gardens, which may or may not feature hairballs in a crucial plot point, here.
“The idea that a 'book of the year' can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer.” Amit Chaudhuri in The Guardian about why the Man Booker Prize “is bad for writers.” And in these pages, Mark O'Connell asks why we care about literary awards at all.