New this week: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini; The Redeemer, a new Harry Hole novel from Jo Nesbø (see our interview); and Abigail Tarttelin’s debut novel Golden Boy. Also out: The Fall of Arthur, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic poem, and George Packer’s The Unwinding.
"I can still remember with complete clarity the way I felt when whatever it was came fluttering down into my hands that day 30 years ago on the grass behind the outfield fence at Jingu Stadium; and I recall just as clearly the warmth of the wounded pigeon I picked up in those same hands that spring afternoon a year later, near Sendagaya Elementary School. I always call up those sensations whenever I think about what it means to write a novel." Haruki Murakami on "The Moment [He] Became a Novelist," excerpted on Lit Hub from the new double edition of his first novels, Wind/Pinball.
In 1932, several black Americans – including Langston Hughes – traveled to the Soviet Union to shoot a propaganda film about the “evils of racism in the United States.” One of those travelers, Lloyd Patterson, would never return. Instead, Patterson married an Ukrainian woman, and the pair had two children. The firstborn, Jim Patterson, was at one time the most famous black resident of the USSR – and his appearance in The Circus even drew the admiration of Joseph Stalin. After World War II, Patterson served as a Soviet naval officer aboard a submarine in the Black Sea. From there he went on to the Soviet Writers Union in 1967. If you think this sounds far-fetched, I encourage you to read more here.
Wallace Shawn has written a new play, and it's unsettling to watch. In it, a group of wealthy, middle-aged party hosts reveal their roles in a dystopian future, where political murders, random beatings and censorship are all commonplace. In an essay for The New York Review of Books, Francine Prose reviews the play in the context of Shawn's other works.
"In its clumsy, ad hoc way, Facebook has brought death back into the public sphere in a way death hasn’t been for more than 100 years." To celebrate Facebook's 10th birthday, The Missouri Review has unlocked its Alexander Landfair essay on how we deal with death on Facebook. For another look at Facebook, read our essay on how the timeline changes the way we tell stories.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better -- h/t Dan Farrely]