On Friday, I wrote about the British writer William Boyd, whose new play, Longing, debuted last week at London’s Hampstead Theatre. The play is based on two of Chekhov’s short stories, one of which (according to Boyd’s new article in The Guardian) sheds light on the great author’s love life. Apparently the young Anton had “at least two dozen” affairs.
“Symptoms included a frenzy for culling and hunting down first editions, rare copies, books of certain sizes or printed on specific paper.” Lauren Young writes in Atlas Obscura about the phenomenon of bibliomania, “a dark pseudo-psychological illness” that afflicted upper-class victims in Europe and England during the 1800s. And for a first-hand account of more contemporary book theft, read John Brandon on his high school pastime: “The first time was nerve-racking, a rush, but by the third book I was already settling in.”
Millions contributor Michelle Dean wrote for The New Yorker‘s Page Turner about Opal Whiteley, whose childhood diary–written when she was six on scraps of paper–was published over 100 years ago to meet with acclaim, then controversy, and then obscurity. If girl prodigies interest you as much as they do me, you’ll also love this 2010 piece from Lapham’s Quarterly, on Barbara Newhall Follett.
In an illuminating interview for Slate, James Wood revises his opinion on David Foster Wallace and discusses how aging can change critics. As he puts it, “At exactly the moment that I wanted really to write, and started writing poems and then trying to write bad fiction, I was reading with a view to learning stuff. I was reading poetry. How did Auden do his stanza forms? And I was trying to copy those. What’s a successful poem, what’s an unsuccessful poem? […] What’s a good sentence? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am as sincerely interested in novels that fail as I am in novels that succeed. I just want to work them out. It’s a pleasure for me actually.” Top it off with Jonathan Russell Clark’s essay on Wood’s The Nearest Thing to Life.
Robert A. Caro, who releases new installments of his Lyndon B. Johnson biography at a glacial pace, is apparently also working on another project, too. It’s “not a memoir, exactly,” he says, but it does concern “how he came to write the Johnson biography and its predecessor, The Power Broker.”
According to some new research conducted by ebook retailer Kobo, the digital reading revolution (if it still exists) is being powered by prolific readers who are primarily female and older than forty-five. The study asserts that women make up almost seventy-five percent of “active” e-readers, defined as those who spend more than thirty minutes per day reading. What does all of this mean? Who knows, but keep reading.