According to the Times, The Guardian and other sources, Things Fall Apart author Chinua Achebe has died. Last October, we published a review of his final book, There Was a Country, which you might want to reread as a first step to considering his legacy. (You could also check out our piece on Things Fall Apart.)
How did Herman Melville’s friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne affect the writing of Moby-Dick? It’s a hard question to answer with any certainty, but Patrick James Dunagan gives it a shot, drawing evidence from Erik Hage’s book on the authors’ relationship. You could also read Hester Blum’s argument that Moby-Dick is the greatest American novel.
“If I have a critique of American letters, it’s that the average American doesn’t read broadly enough, not enough work in translation, that we’re too isolated, too narrow in our reading habits, still too locked into boxes like the one built out of white male heteronormativity.” M. Bartley Seigel, outgoing co-editor of PANK Magazine, on his impressions of American literature. Pair with our piece on the submission processes at literary magazines.
As titles go, it’s hard to get more straightforward than England and Other Stories, the new collection by Graham Swift. In the Times, Michiko Kakutani provides her verdict, lauding Swift for his ability to paint “vistas as panoramic as those in the stories of Alice Munro.”
As you may have heard, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Sylvia Plath. It also, not coincidentally, marks the release of two new biographies: American Isis (the first to draw material from the recently-opened Ted Hughes archive) and Mad Girl’s Love Song (which looks at the poet’s relationship with her “big, dark, hunky boy”). Emma Garman weighs the impact of all this new scholarship at Salon.