Charles Baxter doesn’t believe in writing routines, but he does have some odd superstitions. “I don’t like to spill salt. I throw it over my left shoulder. But if I spill salt in the morning, my day is fucked,” he told The Daily Beast.
"The blackly comic energy of Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts—its caustic ebullience, the strange buoyancy of its suffering—is a remarkably American achievement, a kind of death-dance capered on the corpse of a vividly rendered early 1930s Manhattan." On Miss Lonelyhearts, the darkest American masterpiece.
What if I were to tell you that only half of you is actually you? A new book by Ed Yong takes a look at the human body and the microbial stowaways that make up most of us: "Reader, as you read these words, trillions of microbes and quadrillions of viruses are multiplying on your face, your hands and down there in the darkness of your gut. With every breath you take, with every move you make, you are sending bacteria into the air at the rate of about 37 million per hour — your invisible aura, your personal microbial cloud. With every gram of food you eat, you swallow about a million microbes more."
While East Coasters are still dealing with the wrath of Hurricane Irene, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina passed yesterday. NPR has a timely interview with host Michel Martin, musician Irvin Mayfield and Keith Spera, author of Groove Interrupted: Loss, Renewal and the Music of New Orleans. Likewise, Rivka Galchen's 2009 Harper's essay "Disaster Aversion" bears re-reading.
Out this week: Labor of Love by Moira Weigel; Little Labors by Rivka Galchen; Unforbidden Pleasures by Adam Phillips; Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore; Letters to Kevin by Stephen Dixon; and The Fat Artist and Other Stories by Benjamin Hale. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, "Last Letter," was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.