Our own Emily St. John Mandel guest judged Electric Literature’s Critical Hit Awards this month. She discussed what she looks for in a book review in an interview with Brian Hurley. “I prefer reviews that go beyond talking about literature, so that the book under review is considered in the context of the surrounding world,” she said. The winners are Andrew Winer’s review of The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen, Rachel Monroe’s review of The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins by Brenda Stevenson, and our own review of Karen Green’s Bough Down by Suzanne Scanlon.
The London Review of Books sought out Will Self to help create “a digital literary work that pushed the boundaries of the literary essay well beyond its traditional form.” The effort, they hoped, would “loosen and enhance the structure of the essay, changing the way the reader interacts with the text.” Well, consider that a success. Behold, “Kafka’s Wound” in all its multimedia glory. [Bonus: Millions readers in the UK can catch Will Self's discussion of the digital essay on September 6th.]
In 2013, Mo Yan became China’s first resident Nobel Laureate in Literature, which prompted a huge swell of interest in his books in the West. In the Times, Janet Maslin reviews Frog, his latest novel to get an English translation. Sample quote: “Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye, says everything he needs to about the Cultural Revolution with a scene in which Tadpole and other schoolboys eat coal and claim to find it delicious.” You could also read Alan Levinovitz on modern Chinese literature.
Out this week is Russian author Vladimir Sorokin's Day of the Oprichnik. Coinciding with that release, NYRB Classics is putting out Sorokin's Ice Trilogy. Georges Perec's The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is now on shelves, as is Stewart O'Nan's Emily, Alone, in which he revisits the Maxwell family from his 2002 book Wish You Were Here.
Perhaps inspired by the similarly-named astronomer, Freeman Dyson wrote an entry for the NYT’s By the Book series, in which he praises Edward Wilson, Kristin Ghodsee, Robert Kanigel and Octavia Butler, the last of whom he dubs his favorite novelist of all time. Sample quote: “The Magic City can be read on two levels, as a children’s adventure story and as a critique of modern society. Karl Marx was a friend of [Edith] Nesbit’s family.”
Over at The Paris Review, Hannah Tennant-Moore defends the merits of disturbing literature. We are fascinated with the disturbing, because, as Tennant-Moore asserts, "wonder, disgust: both feelings are true." Here's a bonus piece on A.M. Homes' darkly comic May We Be Forgiven and on comforting the disturbed -- or is it disturbing the comforted?