Out this week: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (who Angela Qian wrote about for The Millions in September); We Are Water by Wally Lamb; Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins; Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books by Claudia Roth Pierpont; and The Eternal Wonder, a recently discovered novel by Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck. For more on these and other new books, check out our Great Second-half 2013 Book Preview.
Recommended listening: Radio Open Source has been broadcasting Anton Chekhov‘s short stories, with voices including Chekhov translator and biographer Rosamund Bartlett, author Andre Dubus of House of Sand and Fog, and numerous other writers, actors, and scholars. “Chekhov makes you want to be a better person. He makes you want to live a better life.” (Unpersuaded? Consider our essays on why reading Chekhov, unlike booze or smokes, will make you a better person in 2014.)
We are only a few days away from our annual 2010 Year in Reading series! Over the past couple of months, we’ve asked dozens of readers, writers, and thinkers to tell us about the best book they read all year. On December 1st, we’ll begin posting pieces from some of the biggest names in literature and publishing. Look for more announcements on the site and twitter over the next few weeks. While you wait, check out last year’s Year in Reading series to get in the spirit!
“Fifty Shades of Grey follows this long history of class ascendancy via feminine wiles, but does so cleverly disguised as an edgy modern bodice-ripper,” writes Heather Havrilesky in the latest issue of The Baffler. Throughout the piece, Havrilesky explores the way luxury brand fetishism and conspicuous consumption fueled E.L. James’s “female-friendly” pornography phenomenon
Greg Mortenson, whose legal and ethical battles we’ve mentioned before, has agreed to repay $1,000,000 of the funds he allegedly embezzled from the Central Asia Institute.
Turns out Americans aren’t the only ones who adore snark. The novelist and critic Adam Mars-Jones has won the first Hatchet Job prize from the British website Omnivore for his blistering takedown of Michael Cunningham’s latest novel, By Nightfall. Mars-Jones beat out Geoff Dyer’s slam of Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. “It isn’t terrible,” Dyer wrote, “it’s just so…average.”
Planning on writing a prison scene? Worried your characters might sound a bit unrealistic? Then see if you can get your hands on the Bonne Terre dictionary. Written by inmates at a prison in Louisiana, the dictionary includes such idiosyncratic terms as “boat,” meaning a plastic bed, and “pumpkin,” meaning a new inmate.