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.
Students at the University of California Santa Barbara, Rutgers, Oberlin, and others have been requesting “trigger warning” labels on literature from The Great Gatsby to Huck Finn. In The Guardian, University College London Professor John Mullan snipes, “You might as well put a label on English literature saying: warning – bad stuff happens here.”
“He is a man who has written a lot about politics and knows something about expectation-setting — set the bar low, and it’ll be easy to top it.” The Awl rounds up its review series of online Masterclasses with such esteemed personages as Aaron Sorkin, James Patterson, and Werner Herzog. See also: our own Sonya Chung‘s review of Sorkin’s film The Social Network.
“Why do we love our writing teachers so much? I think it’s because they come along when we need them most, when we are young and vulnerable and are tentatively approaching this craft that our culture doesn’t have much respect for, but which we are beginning to love. They have so much power. They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead do something almost holy, which we never forget: they take us seriously.” George Saunders offers a timeline of his writing education over at The New Yorker.
At the LARB, Anne Trubek quotes Lionel Trilling in a review of The Son and American Rust, the two books published thus far by New Yorker 20 Under 40 alum Phillipp Meyer. “In the American metaphysic,” Trilling wrote in his essay “Reality in America,” “reality is always material reality, hard, resistant, unformed, impenetrable, and unpleasant.” Those of you who read our pieces on both books may be able to guess why the quote is relevant.
Finalists for the Center For Fiction’s First Novel Prize—including Sophie McManus, Ben Metcalf, Lori Ostlund, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Chigozie Obioma, Tanwi Nandini Islam, and Angela Flournoy—discuss the books that made them the writers they are today. Pair with our own Nick Ripatrazone’s recent article on authors’ favorite childhood books.