Congratulations to our longtime staff writer and contributing editor Garth Risk Hallberg, whose large first novel, City on Fire, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf.
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.
“The so-called ‘alt-right’ is white nationalism repackaged as retro-chic, and its discourse constantly invokes nostalgia for a golden age in the Confederate South when racism when reigned supreme. The leaders of this project will need to be very careful that they don’t end up just creating a Disneyland for racists.” A coalition of local businesses in Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee's hometown, plan to open a major tourist attraction built around the late author's home and fabrications of fictional locations featured in To Kill A Mockingbird. Critics are dubious, reports The Guardian. Perhaps, in lieu of a trip, you'll accept this essay by Robert Rea about his literary pilgrimage to Lee-land?
Out this week: The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich; Madame Zero by Sarah Hall; Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips; Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed; and Careers for Women by Joanna Scott. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Michele Filgate was so terrified by Dave Eggers's The Circle that she quit social media for a week and wrote about the experience for Salon. "I don’t want to become like Mae, sacrificing real-life friendships for the allure of the screen. I want to be aware of the world around me. I want to write about that world. I want to feel more alive, even if that means being lonelier in the process." Pair with: our review of the novel.
In an effort to adjust more comfortably to the modern age, the Merriam-Webster company is revamping its iconic dictionary, the first to focus mainly on American English. At Slate, Stefan Fatsis considers the changes, which raise the question of what a modern dictionary should look like. Related: our own Bill Morris on the American Heritage Dictionary.