Every year, like clockwork, a few brave administrators ban a classic book in time for the opprobrium of Banned Books Week. This year, the brave administrators in question work in Randolph County, NC, where Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison will no longer be on the curriculum. Why? Real quote: it’s a “hard read.” (Related: Kelsey McKinney on banning The Bluest Eye.)
Nabokov once described himself “as American as April in Arizona,” which is an odd thing to call yourself when you’re a lepidopterist Russian expat. In Nabokov in America, Robert Roper explores why Nabokov felt he was so American, and how his journey to that identity influenced his writing of Lolita. At The Literary Review, Ian Sansom reviews Roper’s book.
Jonathan Dent offers a fascinating look at one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most challenging assignments for the Oxford English Dictionary. Apparently as a young philologist, Tolkien was tasked with tracing the etymology of “walrus” – a tricky word “of disputed origin that had all but entirely replaced the earlier English name morse since its first appearance in English in the late 1600s.”
John Domini reviews Joseph McElroy’s Cannonball in the pages of Bookforum. In our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview, our own Garth Risk Hallberg wrote that, “this, his first novel in many a moon, concerns the Iraq War, among other things, and it’s hard to think of an author more suited to reimagining the subject.”
In her review of Joe Wright’s cinematic adaptation for Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Amanda Shubert writes, “Anna Karenina (2012) is, in fact, a mess. But it’s the kind of mess probably only Wright could make.” She goes on to look at how Wright has adapted work by Jane Austen and Ian McEwan, and how he has continued to face the problem of representing literary style (and form) on the screen.
Aimee Bender, Year in Reading alum and author of, most recently, The Color Master, writes for The New York Times about the structural genius of Goodnight Moon: “[The story] does two things right away: It sets up a world and then it subverts its own rules even as it follows them.”
We recently ran a piece called “Where We Write,” in which our staff writers posted photographs of their work spaces. Apartment Therapy has taken it a step further and revealed where some famous and not-so-well-known writers slept. Turns out a bedroom, like a work space, speaks volumes about a writer. But one question remains: What the hell is Patti Smith doing on William S. Burroughs’s bed?