Claire Messud and James Wood might be “the First Couple of American Fiction,” but I’d also argue that their dachshund, Myskhin, is “the first Dachshund of American Magazine Profiles.” (Sorry, Felix Shteyngart.)
Susan Sontag once wrote that the truest way to portray illness was without metaphor. Our own Marie Myung-Ok Lee takes a look at autism in recent literature and the ways its writers (ranging from Don DeLillo, Jonathan Lethem, and Louise Erdrich) have often reduced those with autism to a literary construct.
The January issue of Asymptote is out, featuring an excellent interview with Year in Reading alumnus Junot Díaz about language acquisition and diasporic identity. As he puts it, “I live a life where both English and Spanish are in italics in my brain. It costs me no extra effort; it doesn’t feel unusual; it doesn’t feel like an infirmity, but it does strike me every now and then that there are people who don’t pick over their language the way I do, who aren’t so self-conscious of what they’re saying, who have a natural tongue.” Pair with Thea Lim’s Millions essay on race and gender in Díaz’s books.
John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, was a dear friend (even protégé) of King Charles II. He was also a sharp-tongued poet who called out the same King on his bedroom behavior: “His sceptre and prick are of a length; / And she may sway the one who plays with th’other.”
The Digital Reader rounded up a list based on Amazon’s end of year book sales. Some interesting factoids: Dan Brown‘s Origin: A Novel was the most read and gifted book this holiday season, and Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale was the year’s most borrowed book from Prime Reading. Pair with: our cheat sheet for Kindle (and other e-reader) owners.
“As I got older, the Nigerian scam artist turned into a meme. The ‘Nigerian prince’ became a joke tossed around by white people with the same ease that ‘Italian mobster’ jokes were likely tossed around in the ‘70s—but aided now by the internet. Whenever I came across casual references to my people as scam artists, I’d wince. There was more to us than the scam. Hell—there was even more to the scam.” On how novelist Teju Cole helped Ijeoma Oluo make peace with the Nigerian scam artist.
“You are what you brought from your country? Or you are what you learned here?” The New York Times visits Librería Barco de Papel, one of New York City’s last remaining Spanish-language bookstores. The space also operates as a community and cultural center for the Jackson Heights neighborhood, where roughly half of the 67,000 residents identify as Latino. If you want to feel some more feelings about the state of independent bookstores, check out this old Millions piece about paving paradise and putting up a Chipotle.