New releases this week include The Signature of All Things by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, which you can learn more about in Steve Almond’s review for the Times. Also out: The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna; The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble; Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal; The Night Guest by Fiona MacFarlane; The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson; Personae by Hall of Famer Sergio de la Pava; and The Karl Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen.
British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard has died at the age of 90. She was famous for The Cazalet Chronicles and her literary love affairs with Kingsley Amis (one of her three husbands), Cecil Day-Lewis, and Arthur Koestler. Despite that her writing career spanned 60 years, she admitted that she found writing frightening in a recent interview. “You’ve got to be pretty nervous about the challenge, the blank page – anything could be on it, it could be crap or it could be wonderful.”
Journalist and author Simon Winchester highlights five books “that shed light on the social history of his adopted homeland, from the late 19th century to the Great Depression.” We’re pleased to see Millions Hall-of-Famer Stoner make the cut.
The Virginia Quarterly Review launched their redesigned website this week, and it’s a sight to behold. To celebrate the occasion, the magazine has dropped its paywall through Valentine’s Day, so start exploring. I recommend starting with Kevin Young’s recent poem, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which he composed entirely out of song lyrics.
“As they were actual animals, rather than anthropomorphized personality traits intended to teach moral lessons, the Dog’s words were just a bunch of barking. The Goat bolted across the road, ending up on the ridge behind the Baker place. The Goat’s owner then called Animal Control, even though the Dog’s owner knew about the pot plants in the former’s greenhouse, which he had always been cool about, though that may change real soon.” Aesop’s lesser fables.
Although we’ll never get the chance to read Walter White’s memoir, we’ll get the next best thing. Bryan Cranston is writing a memoir due out next year. “With this book, I want to tell the stories of my life and reveal the secrets and lies that I lived with for six years shooting Breaking Bad,” he said. While you wait, grab a book from our Breaking Bad reading list.
Heading to London in the near future? Stop by the British Library’s new Terror and Wonder, which bills itself as the UK’s biggest Gothic exhibition in history. To whet your appetite, you can read this Guardian piece by Neil Gaiman, in which the Sandman author names Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the apex of Gothic fiction. Related: our own Hannah Gersen on Frankenstein and the “Year Without a Summer.”
On the London Review of Books blog, Kaya Genç makes the case that the similarities between the successful Turkish author Elif Şafak’s work and Zadie Smith’s books is a fact of Turkey’s shifting cultural values rather than plagiarism: “Istanbul, the city Shafak returned to after writing her book in London and the setting for many of her earlier novels, resembles London more and more.” For a bit of context, here’s Lydia Kiesling’s rundown of the initial scandal.