You’ve probably heard it before: never end a story with the phrase “it was all a dream.” Unfortunately for the person who taught you this rule, many classic stories (including Anna Karenina) take place at least partially in dreams. In the NYRB, Francine Prose investigates the trope in fiction.
Out this week: Startup by Doree Shafrir; Borne by Jeff VanderMeer; The Maids by Junichiro Tanizaki; The Last Neanderthal by our own Claire Cameron; and Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Curious to know what the new Most Irritating Word is? Not many people agree on the number one offender, but for a while a top choice was “literally,” which evolved so much over the past few decades that the Oxford English Dictionary revised its official definition. At Slate, Katy Waldman proposed that we give the title to “amazeballs.” Now, in The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz makes the case for “disruptive,” the scourge of the tech world.
The literary it-boys Katie Roiphe described last week in her provocative New York Times essay may say a polite "no, thank you" to sex, but not Legends of the Fall author Jim Harrison. No, sir. His lusty men of all shapes and sizes (octogenarians, clubfooted teens) take second helpings with gusto in his new collection The Farmer's Daughter.
Looks like you might want to add Noah Hawley's new suspense novel Before the Fall to your reading list -- this review by the New York Times is effusive in its praise. Check out the other side of what a Times review can do and pair it with this review of Laura Tillman's The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, which includes such lines as: "Is a book without judgment, a personal view and confidence in its validity still a book?"
Muna Mire has written an incisive and timely essay for The New Inquiry on the Black Feminist classic Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman by Michele Wallace. Coinciding with last month’s reissue of Black Macho by Verso Books, Mire’s essay discusses justified anger rightly-directed and the potential utility of Wallace’s “Black Movement” in the context of today’s racially-charged political climate.
For The Guardian, Richard Lea investigates the fine line between fiction and nonfiction writing, a boundary that is drawn most firmly in the anglophone world. Pair with this Millions piece in defense of blurring the lines of fiction and autobiography.
Blasphemy Alert: They’re giving the film version of August: Osage County a “less downbeat” ending. Curse you, Harvey Weinstein! Is nothing sacred? Can a woman not lament the disintegration of her life, family, and mental stability while the final lines to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” are read by her housekeeper? Has America gone soft?
Those of you who stopped watching The Simpsons thirteen years ago (and heard that the voice actress who plays Edna Krabappel sadly passed away in October) should know that Ms. Krabappel is now married to Ned Flanders. In a run-down over at Splitsider, Bradford Evans catalogues weird plot developments in the last decade-plus of the series. (h/t Slate)