“Tracing the journey of a mediocre actor and Holocaust survivor ‘touched by some mysterious higher design’ as he forges and impersonates his way through the war and then back to the city of his birth, the story is part Samuel Beckett and part Isaac Bashevis Singer, with a sudden final bolt of O. Henry. It has the flavour of a morality tale, but what’s most fascinating to me is how difficult it is to derive a moral from it, or rather how easy it is to derive more than one and how openly they stand in conflict with each other.” Kevin Brockmeier extols the fiction of Leandro Sarmatz.
Moby-Dick is a quintessential Great American Novel, perhaps even the greatest, but it might not be pure fiction. That’s what George Dobbs argues in a piece on “The Real Life Inspirations Behind Moby-Dick” for The Airship. Invention or not, at least we can be thankful no cannibalism sneaked its way onto the Pequod…
Anyone who’s read The Divine Comedy knows that rivalries and petty grudges are timeless. To further prove the point, Mallory Ortberg provided this list, which details the cattiest lines from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Sample quote: “Why do unskilled and ignorant souls disturb him who has skill and knowledge?”
Sir Frank Kermode, widely acclaimed as Britain’s foremost literary critic, died yesterday in Cambridge at the age of 90. Guardian recalls highlights of his eminent career, including inspiring the founding of The London Review of Books, publishing books ranging from works on Spenser and Donne to last year’s Concerning EM Forster, and being an acclaimed reviewer: Philip Roth admitted that although he dislikes reading reviews, “if Frank Kermode reviewed my book I would read it.”
The fuss is currently over John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s clashes over factual accuracy, but frankly I’m tired of hearing about it. Maybe it’s because it sounds so reminiscent of David Shields’ Reality Hunger (2010). Or, better yet, maybe it’s because it sounds so reminiscent of David Sedaris’ Naked (1997).