The thing about Dave Chappelle, writes Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in her marvelous essay on the comedian’s family history, the success of Chappelle’s Show, and how the two informed his opinions on race, “is that he was suddenly vaulted into the awkward position of being the world’s most famous interlocutor in a conversation about race—the one conversation no one likes having.” In light of his recent heckling in Connecticut, as well as the continued misinterpretation of his comedy, “it’s easy to understand why Chappelle was done with being misread, tired of explaining, [and so he] finished talking.”
Ordinarily I would caution against reading a novel’s first draft, however in the case of Finnegans Wake, perhaps all rules should be tossed out the window. With this one, it seems as though any and all supplemental material might help unlock the finished product’s mysteries. Case in point: the entire first draft of Joyce’s most perplexing novel. (Of course, when all else fails, there’s always Michael Chabon to save the day.)
Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.
Out this week is Russian author Vladimir Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik. Coinciding with that release, NYRB Classics is putting out Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy. Georges Perec’s The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is now on shelves, as is Stewart O’Nan’s Emily, Alone, in which he revisits the Maxwell family from his 2002 book Wish You Were Here.
Random House is releasing a collection of previously unpublished poems and stories from Truman Capote’s youth, recently found in the archives of the New York Public Library. Over at Full Stop, Jacob Kiernan examines the keen political conscience in Capote’s never-before-published work. As he explains it, “While his early stories are structurally simple, they evince a prescient social conscience.”