Out this week: Levels of Life by Julian Barnes; The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri; Between Friends by Amos Oz; and a new paperback edition of The Round House by Louise Erdrich. For more information on these books and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2013 Book Preview.
“Bengali children’s fiction’s limitless supply of ghost stories is matched by little other than its readers’ appetite for it,” writes Siddharthya Swapan Roy. “Anthologies dedicated to ghostly thrills come out with unfailing regularity and every publishing house that does not wish to upset its child readership pays due respects to ghosts and their stories.”
Mary Ruefle, author of the forthcoming Madness, Rack, and Honey, wrote a poetic essay on the subject of fear. It’s chock full of lines like this one about why she likes the word dread more than the word fear: “because fear, like the unconscious emotion which is one of its forms, has only the word ear inside of it, telling an animal to listen, while dread has the word read inside of it, telling us to read carefully and find the dead, who are also there.”
“I just didn’t see the textual evidence for it. If Mark Twain wanted to make somebody black, he would make them black. He was not shy about dealing with matters of race.” For The New Yorker, Mythili G. Rao on the complicated backstory to the upcoming publication of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, a “new” children’s book by Mark Twain. See also: our consideration of Twain’s self-deprecating travelogue The Innocents Abroad.
Much fuss was made about Barack Obama’s ex-girlfriends this week, as an excerpt from David Maraniss’ forthcoming Barack Obama: The Story was published in Vanity Fair. Of course, we sophisticated book readers care less about the man’s old flames than we do his literary pursuits, right? That’s why Mr. President’s analysis of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” is so interesting.
Recommended reading: This great flash fiction piece by Ben Miller over at the Tin House Open Bar. If we’re talking “flash fiction,” then we’d better mention this piece from The Millions on Lydia Davis and everyone’s favorite 140-character medium, Twitter.