Sam Sacks takes a look at the “two major acts” in the life of Vasily Grossman, the Jewish-Russian author perhaps best known for his monumental account of the Stalingrad siege, Life and Fate. (Bonus: Life and Fate was picked by Stephen Dodson as his Year in Reading pick back in 2011.)
This past Wednesday Tracy K. Smith officially began her term as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. After adding her name to the guest book traditionally signed by poet laureates upon the start of their one year term, she read aloud from previously published poetry collections and introduced new work. Ron Charles from the Washington Post reports “[a]mong her most powerful new pieces were ‘found poems’ constructed from archival letters that African American veterans sent to President Lincoln asking for pensions they were owed.” Smith is the first poet laureate appointed by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Stay tuned for her upcoming efforts to engage rural communities in poetry discussions.
“Her characters sleepwalk to their certain fates through artificial pocket universes, each one seemingly constructed to satisfy the curiosity of an inhumane, omniscient narrator. Few writers have been so consistently and brilliantly unkind.” On Muriel Spark’s The Bachelors.
Slate corrects an oversight to Sarah Palin’s otherwise impeccably edited memoir: no index. Theirs runs from “Alaska, autumn bouquet of” (page 1) to “‘you betcha’ – revelation of as not actually Alaska’s state motto” (page 309), and includes such helpful detours as “exclamation point, usage of” (pages 4, 26, 120, 121, 122, 138, 150…) You almost – almost – don’t have to read the book.
Noting the rise of the television recap, the folks at The Paris Review Daily, aided by promising early reviews by Teddy Roosevelt and T.S. Eliot, are recapping Dante’s Inferno. Their suggestion for readers looking to follow along? Sit down with a Canto every Sunday at 9 p.m.
“I wasn’t exactly feeling this. Still, I did try to rationalize what I was doing: maybe being altruistic and selfish at the same time was actually a good way to live, making sure sacrifice doesn’t go too far?” A psalm for a selfish hospice volunteer from Andy Mozina over at Electric Literature.
Lydia Davis is the recipient of the 2016 Hadada Award from The Paris Review, a lifetime-achievement award which is presented each year to “a distinguished member of the writing community who has made a strong and unique contribution to literature.” We brought you a bit on Davis just yesterday.