“‘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
Recommended Reading: Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned author Wells Tower journeyed to Tupelo, Mississippi in order to investigate the man who mailed ricin to Barack Obama.
You may have read Darcey Steinke’s Year in Reading piece, or perhaps one of her articles here at The Millions. Or else you might have read — or at least heard about — her recent novel, Sister Golden Hair. Either way, you should read this interview at The Rumpus, in which she talks about Virginia, femininity and books that have too much plot.
“I wish all this telling women alcohol is dangerous was a manifestation of a country that loves babies so much it’s all over lead contamination from New Orleans to Baltimore to Flint and the lousy nitrate-contaminated water of Iowa and carcinogenic pesticides and the links between sugary junk food and juvenile diabetes and the need for universal access to healthcare and daycare and good and adequate food. You know it’s not. It’s just about hating on women. Hating on women requires narratives that make men vanish and make women magicians producing babies out of thin air and dissolute habits.” Rebecca Solnit on the passive voice, mysterious pregnancies, disappearing men, and the Center for Disease Control. Pair with this Millions review of Solnit’s book The Faraway Nearby.
“Year-end lists are always subjective and incomplete, but they are especially tricky for books. A dedicated film critic can watch every wide release film and a theater critic can go to most every play, but the book critic is faced with an insurmountable mountain of books each year. The sheer number of books is inspiring as a reader, but it can make “best of” lists laughably subjective when the critic has only read a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of books published each year.” This might help to explain the logic and intent of our own Year in Reading series, but it also prefaces Electric Literature‘s list of the top 25 story collections of 2014 (which includes recent Year in Reading alum Phil Klay‘s Redeployment).
From one muckracker to another: Thomas Frank on Mailer and Miami.Fear and Loathing at Build-a-Bear WorkshopThe folks at n+1 on Obama and the culture war reduxSarah, the book, nibbles at the edges of Amazon’s Top 10, sparking its own kind of culture war in the reviews section (scroll down)Can Palin! The Musical be far behind?A new tool for mapping bookstores, chain and indieFor Salvadoran novelist Horacio Castellanos Moya, politics are a genetic burdenFrank O’Hara…yeah, New York will do that to youJonathan Yardley on the venerable Elements of StyleDon’t blame me…I voted for Kodos