New this week: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, and three newly translated books from by Icelandic author Sjón: The Blue Fox, The Whispering Muse, and From the Mouth of the Whale. New in paperback is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.
Elif Batuman’s provocative essay “Get a Real Degree” is up at the London Review of Books: “Despite the recent trend in viewing fiction as a form of empathy training, I’m pretty sure that writing short stories isn’t the most efficient way to combat injustice or oppression.”
Amidst the tragic news that Iain Banks has cancer, The Telegraph responds with a headline for the ages: “Iain Banks taught me that books can be a hand grenade“
In his inaugural column for The New York Times Magazine, former New York Magazine critic Sam Anderson expands upon the idea he shared with us in his “Year in Marginalia,” his riff on our big Year in Reading series. And, as a sidebar to Anderson’s column, the Magazine has published a brief excerpt of John Brandon’s compelling essay from The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books (perhaps you’ve heard that title mentioned around here lately?)
Jonathan Raban intersperses biographical information about William Gaddis in order to give the correspondence collected in his recently published Letters greater context. There are ample details about the author’s travels in his young adulthood, his artistic frustrations over the publication of The Recognitions, and, of course, many details about the women in Gaddis’s life. “In letters to his mother,” Raban writes, “Gaddis liked to depict himself as someone repeatedly smitten by beautiful women.” (Bonus: “The Letters of William Gaddis contains five letters addressed to me.”