What inspired Samuel Clemens to change his name to Mark Twain? Was it a Mississippi riverboat captain? Did he earn it by “drinking at a one-bit saloon in Virginia City, Nevada?” Or, as rare book dealer Kevin Mac Donnell now alleges in the new issue of Mark Twain Journal, did the author find his pseudonym in a popular humor journal?
“I’m sure the ghost is fascinated by the N.Y.C. vs. M.F.A. debate, and would add that there’s a literary-world bias… toward writing done by the living.” The New Yorker interviews Rebecca Curtis about ghost stories and her latest piece of short fiction, “The Pink House.” For more about Curtis, check out our review of her debut collection Twenty Grand: And Other Tales of Love and Money.
It’s good to see James Wood covering Richard Price in The New Yorker; and even better to hear Price himself on Fresh Air.And also from The New Yorker, may we recommend Dan Chiasson’s wonderful essay on Frank O’Hara?Luc Sante’s blog pretty much has to be good.Derek, the guy who got both Max and Garth started blogging in the first place, is taking part in a big group blog at the Washington Post covering the Nationals baseball team and its new stadium.With features like this reconsideration of The Gnostic Gospels, the New York Sun is quietly building what may be the country’s best books section.”Growing Up Radical: An Interview with Peter Carey” (via scott)”On Magic Feelism” – n+1 considers Kevin Brockmeier’s The View from the Seventh LayerBoris Kachka profiles Jhumpa Lahiri in New YorkSurreal: “Garfield” minus Garfield. Alternatively, “Garfield” without Garfield’s thought bubbles.Nobody knows if the Kindle is a hit, AP says, but something is happening.A book graveyard in Russia.Languagehat’s specialty: a thoroughly edifying investigation of a phrase pulled out of thin air.American Book Review has developed their own lists of 100 Best Last Lines from Novels (PDF) and 100 Best First Lines from NovelsThe Boston Globe argues that Bringing Down the House, the basis for the new movie 21, is not a work of nonfiction.
Books by Friends, a semi-regular feature at The Atlantic, sees writer James Fallows recommend the works of authors he knows. This week, he praises a book on the history of flight, a prediction for the economy and a jeremiad on American politics by Gary Hart. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on Fallows and American decline.
“When you go to Narnia, your worries come with you. Narnia just becomes the place where you work them out and try to resolve them.” Lev Grossman writes for The Atlantic about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and why fantasy isn’t escapism. Pair with our own Edan Lepucki‘s review of Grossman’s latest novel, The Magician’s Land.