A very big week for new books: See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid; My Brother’s Book, the last book completed by Maurice Sendak before his death in May 2012; How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields; The City of Devi by Manil Suri; a new edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s & Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote; The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne (see our interview today); P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters; Wise Men by Stuart Nadler; debut novels Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss and Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer; City of Angels, an autobiographical novel by Christa Wolf; and House of Earth, the lost novel of Woody Guthrie.
“My parents really don’t like that book. It embarrassed and saddened them and they didn’t understand why I would air my dirty laundry in public. They’ve had some time to sit with it and now they’re more supportive of what I do as a memoirist. I think they see the value of telling your story now. It’s still a tender subject and I wouldn’t say that they exactly love the book now, but at least it’s an open dialogue.” Jillian Lauren speaks on the cost of telling one’s truth publicly and her memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem. Pair with a piece by our own Michael Bourne on the art and business of memoirs.
Charles Dickens turns 200 in February, which is one good explanation for two new biographies (Charles Dickens: A Life) and (Becoming Dickens) appearing just in time. But even more importantly, why is now the perfect time to read him? Here’s one hint: the man’s vast social imagination.
“There tends to be this idea that every piece and every assignment and every gig is always something speaking from the soul. We think that about great writers, that they’re incapable of doing hackwork.” The Rumpus interviewed Michelle Dean about women writers, the research process, and her forthcoming book, Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion. Pair with: Dean’s 2016 Year in Reading entry.
If you’re a professor or mentor, it’s the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. “He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends.” Even if the government didn’t like Whitman’s work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the power of Whitman’s poetry.
Carl Wilson, author of Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the end of Taste (a book length study of Celine Dion‘s megablockbusting album of the same name), revisits the enduring and sort of nauseating classic from Titanic‘s soundtrack in The Atlantic.
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.