Year in Reading contributor Kevin Smokler’s new essay collection, Practical Classics, explores the benefits of revisiting the first books you read (even if you hated them). In fact, the difficult and excruciating books have a particular value. “Books aren’t all supposed to be our best friends,” says Smokler in a new Rumpus interview. “Sometimes they’re supposed to be that difficult friend who encourages us to do things that we don’t feel are rational or grown-up.”
The office novel, by nature, is a tricky construct, if only because your average white-collar job doesn’t offer much in the way of fiction-worthy moments. That said, recent books like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris demonstrate how fruitful it can be to wring drama out of the rat race. In the latest issue of Dissent, Cubed author Nikil Saval delves into the contradictions of office fiction. FYI, Saval wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.
It’s about an hour away from 5 o’clock over here, so that gives you plenty of time to read Chris Newgent’s “No-Bull Bourbon Review” on Hobart’s website. “A true bourbon,” Newgent writes, “is a bourbon with a story worth remembering.” Agreed. And so would Walker Percy.
“How earnest, ironic, condescending, moralistic and simply funny a Tolstoy should the translator inhabit? Perhaps the only way to render Tolstoy’s variable voice is to continue producing ever-varying translations.” Masha Gessen looks at the latest English translations of Anna Karenina and breaks down their nuances of word choice and accumulated meaning for The New York Times Book Review, and along the way she questions the novel’s most famous line: just how alike are happy families? How can we know?
Recommended Reading: Amy Gentry writes on the effects of rape culture and its permeations through art and literature. “I realize that what I’m describing here isn’t a list of books I’d like to see banned from the classroom; in fact, it is a list of my favorite books. It also a solid bit of evidence that Western culture is rape culture. Or, to put it another way: rape culture is just culture-culture. If only there were a trigger warning big enough for that.”
A controversial new book art exhibit is set to open at the Mansfield Library of the University of Montana on January 7th. The show, “Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate,” comprises works by 100 artists all of which are made out 4000 books published by a white supremacist organization, The Church of the Creator, and sold to the Montana Human Rights Network by a disaffected member. Read the strange story of the genesis of the exhibition and see some of the works here.