“Born Guan Moye, he chose his pen name—“Don’t Talk”—to honor his mother’s caution against talking too much and in sardonic recognition of his failure to heed her warning. Yet I have been struck by his quiet and unassuming presence at literary conferences in Beijing, where he offered kind encouragement in private meetings but evinced a shy persona in public.” On the contradictions of last year’s Nobel laureate, Mo Yan.
“[Ludmilla] Petrushevskaya doesn't write about isolated acts of depravity; she writes about universal ones,” says Michael Robbins in his review of There Once Lived a Girl. “What's scary about her narratives is their implication that only the thinnest film, which might rip at any time, separates us from the chaos and breakdown they describe.” Our own Janet Potter also reviewed Petrushevskaya’s work this week, and she focused on the romantic hopes of its characters. "What’s remarkable," Potter writes, "is not the love they find, but the fact that they’re looking for it."
Hugo Lindgren, editor of The New York Times Magazine, participated in a pretty nifty Reddit Ask Me Anything installment. When one commenter asked him how long it takes to prepare each week’s Meh List, Lindgren wrote, “The Meh list never stops. The actual compilation of it is lickety split but the hunt for Meh is eternal.” He also admitted that two of his favorite magazine stories are Mark Jacobson’s “Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet” and John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” [Reg. Req.].
It’s been a year since Nobel laureate and Irish poet Seamus Heaney passed away. His publishers are releasing a final collection of his poetry in November. In The Irish Independent, a brief retrospective on Heaney’s legacy, which includes his wife’s unique way of expressing her gratitude to his friends. You could also read Trent Morris’s tribute to Heaney for The Millions.
“When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty.” Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison debate whether or not we overvalue difficult literature in The New York Times.