Recommended Reading: “Nudists” by David James Poissant.
Sex ed for teenagers is a famously knotty subject, which explains why Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman, wants to eschew sex ed classes in favor of literature courses. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children,” he said in a television interview. “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.” (No word yet on what he thinks of Crime and Punishment.) (h/t The Paris Review)
This year, the good folks at Slate and the Whiting Foundation kicked off a new literary prize, intended to reward authors for great second novels. To wrap up the year, they’ve asked several winners of the prize, including Akhil Sharma, Helen DeWitt and Daniel Alarcon, to write short pieces about objects that symbolize the writing process for their books. (Akhil Sharma chooses a stopwatch, while Eileen Myles chooses a can of Cafe Bustelo.)
Kevin Courier is re-running interviews he did for the CBC in the 1980s on the Critics At Large site. Here’s his 1986 interview with Barbara Brenden, author of The Passion of Ayn Rand. Brenden’s book, Courier writes, “not only unveiled this polarizing figure” of Ayn Rand, but it “also illustrated the perils of blind faith and idolatry.” Given the Objectivist’s influence on a certain vice presidential candidate, this one’s worth a read.
In 1986, six years before the publication of The Secret History, Donna Tartt was chosen as the student speaker of her graduating class at Bennington College. A typewritten copy of the speech was recently unearthed, in which she looks back upon her education and the college campus that inspired her first novel. Pair with this comprehensive list of the artworks in Tartt’s The Goldfinch.