“This is a tricky novel to review. I’m not even sure it is a novel. And I’m not certain as to whether its fragmentary nature belies an organic structure of astutely sewn intention or is merely a disingenuous device to conceal a let’s-get-something-out cobbling together of unpublished material lying around the writer’s desk. What I can tell you is this: I was powerfully engaged and richly entertained by Sergio De La Pava’s Personae.” (Related: our own Garth Risk Hallberg wrote a profile of De La Pava.)
At Guernica, Kirsten O’Regan delves into labiaplasty, a “relatively unregulated, frequently botched” and scarily popular new surgery. The oddest (and saddest) thing she learns about the procedure? Apparently a lot of young mothers urge their daughters to do it.
“When she was at Radcliffe, Gertrude Stein always wore black and refused to wear a corset. Samuel Beckett liked Wallabee boots and Aran sweaters and settled on his hairstyle when he was 17.” Proving that author worship is still alive and well, The New York Times reviews a new book called Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore. Come for Mark Twain‘s white suit; stay for Zadie Smith‘s head wraps. Semi-related: how clothing makes the (fictional) woman and man.
Accusations of plagiarism – the real kind, which is not to be confused with “self-plagiarism” – just keep following Turkish writer Elif Şafak, don’t they? Lydia Kiesling previously reported on the fiasco around her book Iskender last August, but now more allegations are surrounding the cover art on Şafak’s latest novel, Şemspare.
“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
A new collection of non-fiction by Jonathan Franzen, Farther Away: Essays, is out today. Also out is Laurent Binet’s HHhH, from which we recently published some redacted scenes. Other new releases this week include Rosecrans Baldwin’s memoir Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down and Nobel laureate Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel.
“The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium—an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace.” Gabriel Roth writes about the terrible Poky Little Puppy for Slate, and his complaints pair well with Jacob Lambert‘s Millions series, “Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray?” and “Again, I Ask…“