“And when she champions authors, she explains specifically what makes their work special. No vague parroting of Kakutani reviews here. She gives you the straight dope.” How do you say goodbye to your favorite bookstore?
As a child, Xiaolu Guo hunted birds and toads to survive. Now, as a writer in Britain, she’s written a memoir about her difficult childhood, which you can read more about in this review in The New Statesman. Sample quote: “Perhaps it is no coincidence that the reason that Guo gives for deciding to write in English is to be free of Chinese government censorship, a process that she describes as the wearing down of a rock’s sharp edges to a smooth pebble.”
Some of the best novels out there — Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men — deal largely with fictional friendships. Yet depictions of close friends that are central to the plot are considerably rare in modern novels. At The Guardian, AD Miller notes this isn’t the case for movies and TV shows, and suggests a number of reasons why. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on friendship in the age of Facebook.
Canonical literature isn’t the only way to learn about America. The bestseller list can be equally as telling. Matthew Kahn is reading 100 years of No. 1 bestsellers from 1913 to 2013. He blogs about the books and discusses the project in an interview with Salon’s Laura Miller. When Miller asks what makes a bestseller, he claims, “A lot of it is just a matter of accessibility. A focus on plot and character rather than structure and the prose itself.”
“There is one rule [to writing biography] that all who try their hand at it come to know: until the protagonist reveals his or her character—his or her inner self—what the biographer produces is less a life than a report, an autopsy rather than the record of a séance.” David Levering Lewis writes for The American Scholar about biography and writing “the lives of African-American figures, and [finding] in them the story of our times.”