France’s top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, has been awarded to the French-Moroccan journalist and novelist Leïla Slimani, The New York Times reports. Slimani’s book, Chanson Douce, is loosely based on a tragic case in New York City in which two children were murdered by their caretaker. Earlier this year we reviewed another book that was a finalist for the prize, The Heart.
“Born Guan Moye, he chose his pen name—“Don’t Talk”—to honor his mother’s caution against talking too much and in sardonic recognition of his failure to heed her warning. Yet I have been struck by his quiet and unassuming presence at literary conferences in Beijing, where he offered kind encouragement in private meetings but evinced a shy persona in public.” On the contradictions of last year’s Nobel laureate, Mo Yan.
Out this week: The Color Master, a new short story collection by Aimee Bender; an English-language translation of The Infatuations by Javier Marias; and Brief Encounters with the Enemy, the new Saïd Sayrafiezadeh book that Scott Cheshire reviewed for us on Monday. Read more about these and other releases in our Great 2013 Second-Half Book Preview.
Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there’s no Wild West.
Recommended reading: “One of the drillers fell to his knees. Some sobbed, in the way men do when their mothers die, or when their sons are born.” An exceptional and deeply moving long-form essay in the New Yorker recounting the 69 days spent underground by the famed ’33’ Chilean miners buried in the 2010 accident at Copiapó.