“‘There’s no success like failure,’ Bob Dylan once sang – but he couldn’t have envisaged the international notoriety that bad art would achieve in the digital age. Mark O’Connell’s Epic Fail gleefully hops genres and centuries in a quest to understand our obsession with lameness. Clever, profound, bitingly funny, it’s a brilliant analysis from one of the smartest new critics around.” — Paul Murray, author of Skippy Dies
Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.
Pankaj Mishra caught up with Orhan Pamuk in the midst of Turkey’s Gezi Park turmoil, and though the Nobel laureate was at first “reluctant to speak of the protests,” he occasionally let down his guard. In those instances, writes Mishra, Pamuk “revealed a shrewd political mind and a confidence about the new social consciousness the demonstrators represent.”
"Legal writing, save for the prose of a precious few lawyers and judges, has rarely contributed to the literary enterprise. Yet there are times when legal proceedings have helped the public at large to reconsider the experience of reading in commercial, emotional, and intellectual terms." Ian Crouch on the odd experience of reading the statements of Lance Armstrong.
“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave.” Jane Gardam on why she prefers writing short stories instead of novels in The Guardian. Pair with Lisa Peet’s essay on Gardam’s organically grown characters.