Some heavy hitters out this week: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan; Dear Life, Alice Munro’s latest collection; Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño; The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín; and Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon’s massive follow-up to The Noonday Demon. Also out are My Ideal Bookshelf, in which figures from Judd Apatow to Jennifer Egan share about which books shaped them; Jon Meacham’s biography of Jefferson; 40 years of poems by Louise Glück; a new issue of McSweeney’s food mag Lucky Peach; debut The Heat of the Sun by David Rain, and She Loves Me Not, a new collection of stories by Ron Hansen.
According to a recent survey, Danes are the happiest people in the world. This came as a surprise, writes Mathilde Walter Clark, to most of her fellow Scandinavians, who know very well the unhappier elements of their daily lives. The problem, she suggests, is that words like “happiness,” “ambition” and “contentment” have subtly different meanings in different languages -- in other words, happiness in Denmark isn’t the same thing as happiness in America. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel’s review of the Danish writer Jonas T. Bengtsson’s A Fairy Tale.
If you know that Patricia Highsmith wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, you know that she’s an exceptional authority on the workings of the criminal mind. At The Paris Review Daily, Dan Piepenbring digs up an old interview with the author, in which she describes the act of murder as “the opposite of freedom.” You could also read Tana French on Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train.
Mary Ruefle, author of the forthcoming Madness, Rack, and Honey, wrote a poetic essay on the subject of fear. It’s chock full of lines like this one about why she likes the word dread more than the word fear: “because fear, like the unconscious emotion which is one of its forms, has only the word ear inside of it, telling an animal to listen, while dread has the word read inside of it, telling us to read carefully and find the dead, who are also there.”