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?
Recommended listening: Benjamin Percy, whose novel The Dead Lands was released just this week, sings "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Writers" for the debut episode of Poets & Writers's new podcast, Ampersand.
“When you read these books—I suggest perusing them, martini in hand, while your children (or better your friends’ children, for whom you are babysitting) run around shrieking—you’ll see every parenting stance you’ve ever adopted, every parent-story trope you’ve ever told or heard, expressed more perfectly than you ever could have.” Dan Kois on Shirley Jackson’s two memoirs on parenting.
“At the outset, Nair is in Sierra Leone to keep tabs on his old friend and uses the occasion to practice a little freelance extortion, stealing unspecified multinational secrets on a flash drive and sending them back to his girlfriend in Amsterdam. The first 50 pages are like a Johnsonian take on Graham Greene’s humid morality-play potboilers. Nair keeps meeting shifty European acquaintances and distrusting everything they say.” John Lingan reviews Denis Johnson’s new novel.