"If Gothic literature had a family tree, its twisted gnarled branches chock-full of imperiled, swooning heroines and mysterious monks, with ghosts who sit light on the branches, and Frankenstein’s monster who sits heavy, with troops of dwarves, and winking nuns, and stunted, mostly nonflammable babies, at its base would sit Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto." Carrie Frye writes for Longreads about the history and personality behind the first Gothic novel, which turns 250 this year.
Why is Hamlet so maddeningly indecisive? It’s a question as well-trod as any in literature, yet few people question that dithering is what defines the Prince of Denmark. In The Irish Times, Brian Dillon looks at another way of thinking about the character, one laid out in a recent book, that centers on the idea that Hamlet is crippled by “the burden of knowledge itself.”
Colson Whitehead has some advice: write the book that "scares you shitless." In a recent, wide-ranging interview with John Freeman, the Underground Railroad author talks about why he wrote his latest novel, along with his methods for sussing out good ideas. You could also read our review of The Underground Railroad.
Nathaniel Rich, who seems to have endured his 47-hour train trip without descending into madness, describes one of his favorite historical attractions in New Orleans: the Pharmacy Museum. “There are few things in life more terrifying than antiquated medical devices,” he writes.
The New York Times recommends eight new books it thinks you'll like, including Alan Moore's Jerusalem, which we reviewed last month, and two novels – Jonathan Lethem's A Gambler's Anatomy, and Jade Chang's The Wangs vs. the World – that were on our own most-anticipated October list.