Modern day celebrities aren’t the only victims of Photoshop. Paula Byrne, a Jane Austen biographer, believes that Austen has been “airbrushed” on her £10 Bank of England note. The portrait makes her look like “a pretty doll with big doe eyes” and diminishes her reputation as an author, Byrne argues.
Ilan Stavans’s introduction to the quadricentennial edition of Don Quixote is available on the Literary Hub website. As he explains it, the narrative is both baffling and perfect: “What I like most about Don Quixote is its imperfection. I wasn’t wrong in my teens about the sloppiness of the writing; it is just that my attitude was too pedantic. It is, unquestionably, a defective narrative. Cervantes is often criticized as a numb and careless stylist.”
What do you think gets fact-checked the most rigorously: newspaper articles, magazine stories, or books? If you guessed books, you’d be surprised to know that they are rarely, if ever, fact-checked. At The Atlantic, Kate Newman questions why we have so much faith in books’ accuracy but why publishers don’t bother.
Out this week: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides; Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien; A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo; An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon; Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (whom we interviewed recently); and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
“White Americans do not realize how black they are,” writes Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish. If, upon reading Sullivan, you find yourself questioning your racial identity, try the blog Stuff White People Like–sure, most of it is really stuff that dinks and yuppies like (class trumps race, as Walter Ben Michaels explains at the LRB), but it might help you brush up on the ways and loves of white folks: camping, pea coats, hating your parents, Wes Anderson, diversity, sushi, standing still at concerts…
In the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller explains why all the year-end lists are a tiresome exercise: “What annoys and disappoints me, though, is the chilly retrospective nature of such lists. They drain all of the blood from the critic’s job. They require a cold, methodical calculation of passions long past. They’re about yesterday’s yearning. Compiling them is a bit like trying to remember why you used to be in love with so-and-so.” (Thanks, Laurie)