It’s rare that you find someone as eclectic as William Boyd. Not only did the British writer’s new play (based on two of Chekhov’s short stories) debut in London this week, his upcoming novel will star none other than James Bond. (If you’re wondering, his friend Daniel Craig is not how he pictures the superspy.)
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has named author Lesley Nneka Arimah its 2017 Artist of the Year. They note, “Arimah is at the forefront of a growing number of young authors, primarily immigrants and writers of color — in the Twin Cities, as well as across the country — who are writing some of the most original and interesting fiction and poetry being published today.” Arimah is the author of the short story collection What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, a 2017 Year in Reading favorite. She was also honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” and named as a finalist for the John Leonard Prize. Congratulations!
I’d heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: “The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally–he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now–but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times (‘arrogant,’ ‘high-handed,’ ‘ethically compromised’) with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.”
New releases this week: All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang, “a writing-school success story” according to the New York Times in its review, Obama’s Wars, the latest book by legendary reporter Bob Woodward, Listen to This, a collection of essays published by music critic Alex Ross during his 12-year career at The New Yorker, and (almost new) is David Grossman’s To the End of the Land, as reviewed by Rayyan Al-Shawaf for The Millions.
Graduation season is upon us, and college students across the nation are listening to esteemed commencement speakers. Some get treated to the likes of Bill Watterson, Jon Stewart, or Barbara Kingsolver. (I got to listen to The Rock.) In the thrill of the moment, it feels like it hardly matters who’s at the podium. One wonders if audiences really grasp the material in these speeches right away, or if the speaker’s words only become clear later on. Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s iconic Kenyon address in 2005, our own Kevin Hartnett tried to find out.
“The art style also changes from chapter to chapter — some panels fill the pages to the edges and are overwhelming in their dark palette; some seem ordinary in proportion, confident; others fill the space around small figures with words, words, words; and others still have a minimalist, sketch-like quality and barely occupy the page at all — and they aren’t always chapters, or even stories, in the traditional sense.” On MariNaomi’s Dragon’s Breath and Other Stories.