Tim Parks investigates the idea of “writing to death” in the cases of Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens and William Faulkner. “So many of the writers I have looked at seem permanently torn between irreconcilable positions,” Parks writes. “Eventually, the dilemma driving the work either leads to death, or is neutralized in a way that prolongs life but dulls the writing” (Bonus: Our own Mark O’Connell just reviewed Parks’s latest book, Italian Ways.)
Out this week: Marlena by Julie Buntin; American War by Omar El Akkad; What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah; Kingdom of the Young by Edie Meidav; No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts; and Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Anthony Domestico, who studied under James Wood at Harvard, turns in a review of the critic’s latest non-fiction collection, The Fun Stuff. Aside from penning an astute review of the book, Domestico draws from his firsthand experience with Wood to pepper his write-up with details such as this: “While puzzling over a complex passage, he would vigorously rub the top of his head, as if hoping to coax interpretive brilliance from his bald spot like a genie from a lamp.” (Bonus: our own Lydia Kiesling takes a look at Wood’s latest for Bullet Media.)
We get it, you’re into finance — but what can you tell me about lit crit? This piece from The Atlantic purports to show how literary theory has its place in the world of finance: “The act of imagining the future in finance goes by other names—’vision’ and ‘invention’ are among the more respectable euphemisms—in order to disguise the presence of the non-rational in financial activity. But rarely do scholars explore the role of imagination in economic life systematically. In a realm dominated by economic and financial scholarship that aspires to be ‘scientific,’ fantasy and creativity in envisioning the future are often ignored; they don’t fit well into a model of research whose aim is to reduce unknowns and to eliminate surprises as much as possible.”
VIDA, an organization that promotes gender parity in the literary arts, has tallied up the 2011 bylines and book reviews from some of the bigger magazines . Granta was the only publication to achieve parity, but they did have an issue devoted entirely to feminism, so that may be skewing the numbers. The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, and Harper’s are not making the cut. While institutionalized misogyny in any profession presents a problem, gender quotas are probably not the answer.
Brontë for babies? Board books, those small, sturdy volumes with the glossy cardboard “pages” – generally featuring rounded corners so babies who are teething don’t cut their gums or poke out their eyes, are getting ludicrous. A new series, we’re told on the back covers, “is a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.”