What does it mean that so many faculty members at the United States Naval Academy have recommended Ayn Rand’s work on the “Reading List For Life?”
“In addition to fearing, as a young person, that I lacked sophistication, I also feared that I lacked courage. It was hard for me to say something even mildly tough about someone else or their work; hard for me, generally, to be critical. Mary McCarthy had no such trouble.” Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings, writes about her literary idol for the LA Times.
In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it “helped her build the writing muscles needed” to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as “turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack,” his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that “the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle.”
“This is a huge generalization, but [American novels] have tended not to have all the elements that make it good for television, whether it’s too interior or there’s not enough action. The Brits tended to write more colorful stories rather than the darkness and struggle. Dickens and Trollope certainly knew how to write sequels, books that would make good ongoing series again and again. And the greatest love stories are in the Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know what our equivalent is.” In a piece for The Atlantic Spencer Kornhaber wonders, “Is American Literature Too Dark for TV?“
Move over, “GIF.” (Or, more accurately: animate yourself away from us in an unending loop.) There’s a new Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. Enter, “selfie,” a word of Australian origin that describes an ostensibly new “digital affair, [that’s actually] a novel iteration of an old form: the self-portrait.” (They even come with overarching themes of mortality.)
Here’s a book that’s sure to be included in our second-half installment of our Most Anticipated books: Zadie Smith’s NW, which traces the lives of several people who make it out of one of Northwest London’s housing estates. The promotional copy calls it a “delicate, devastating novel of encounters.”