“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.
So does literature really have the power to bring liberals and conservatives together? Probably not. Either way, this is still a fascinating study: “The ‘most startling result was this: it was conservative — not liberal — readers who are most active in producing this space of cultural compromise.’ Basically, within this sample size, conservative readers tended to exude more generous praise for ‘bridge books’ and did so with a vernacular considered to be ‘less heated or emotional.’ Grammatically, they also expressed ‘more complex thoughts.'”
The huge, McSweeney’s-published, John Sayles novel A Moment in the Sun has been getting great reviews. It’s now out. Also new this week is China Mieville’s Embassytown, reviewed here today; Paul Theroux’s exploration of the genre of travel writing, The Tao of Travel; prizewinning Nigerian author Helon Habila’s new novel Oil on Water; and A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, the complete stories of Margaret Drabble, recently written up by Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker. New in paperback are a pair of Millions Hall of Famers, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
Out this week: Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson; Dark at the Crossing by Eliot Ackerman; Days Without End by Sebastian Barry; Mexico by Josh Barkan; The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak; and Number 11 by Jonathan Coe. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. Don’t let this dissuade you from revising again and again, which can really improve a piece of writing.” Albert Camus, creative writing instructor.
Buzzfeed kicked up a storm on Thursday when its first-ever Buzzfeed Books editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, told Poynter that the site’s new vertical won’t publish negative reviews. Invoking the “Bambi rule,” Fitzgerald argued that he sees no point “[wasting] breath talking smack about something.” At The Atlantic Wire, Eric Levenson published a counterpoint, while Alexanda Petri poked fun at Fitzgerald in the WaPo.