Point: “Repeated surveys show that children spend less time reading than did previous generations. They instead devote many hours of their waking lives to electronic screens of one kind or another.” Counterpoint: “Generation Y, those born between 1979 and 1989, spent the most money on books in 2011, taking over long-held book-buying leadership from baby boomers…with 43 percent of GenY’s purchases going to online channels, they are adding momentum to the industry shift to digital.” Conclusion?
Out this week is Russian author Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik. Coinciding with that release, NYRB Classics is putting out Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy. Georges Perec’s The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is now on shelves, as is Stewart O’Nan’s Emily, Alone, in which he revisits the Maxwell family from his 2002 book Wish You Were Here.
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”
Another bumper crop of books this week is led by J.K Rowling’s post-Potter effort, The Casual Vacancy is on shelves, as are May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes, Canvas by Benjamin Stein, Panorama City by Antoine Wilson, Sutton by J.R. Moehringer, Tarun J. Tejpal’s debut The Story of my Assassins. On the non-fiction side, Nate Silver’s long-awaited The Signal and the Noise is here, as is Neil Young’s memoir Waging Heavy Peace. New in paperback: John Warner’s Funny Man (the edition includes an essay by Warner that ran on The Millions) and Emma Donoghue’s blockbuster The Room.
“My ear for the diction and rhythms of poetry was trained by — in chronological order — Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, the guitar solos of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and T.S. Eliot.” Author Denis Johnson has died at age 67, reports The Washington Post. Our own Sonya Chung recommended Johnson’s celebrated short story collection Jesus’ Son to a friend some years back, saying “I know it will knock him out. It does (of course).”