It takes a certain skill to link Taipei by Tao Lin, My Struggle Part I and Part II by Karl Ove Knausgaard and an old book on Italian painting in a single essay, but Zadie Smith is (naturally) the writer for the job. In a new piece for The NY Review of Books, she asks the reader to “imagine [a drawing of a corpse] represents an absolute certainty about you, namely, that you will one day be a corpse.”
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.
“I hope they also love that experience of surprise and delight and really engaging stories in the fiction sense, but also in the writers at work sense and in the poetic sense.” A Vanity Fair interview with Emily Nemens, The Paris Review’s new editor. And here’s a list of 20 reasons you should absolutely be reading literary magazines.
Do author photographs change the way we see them (or the way we read their works)? At Lit Hub, stare into the souls of a few iconic writers and read about how author photos impact us. You could also read our review of Street Seen, which maps out how photography and reality became intertwined.
“The Time I Spent On A Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective On The World,” a blogger named Ishmael writes, on the sister blog to The Onion. (But I like these titles better.)
Darryl Pinckney and Zadie Smith discuss Beyoncé, literature, and achievement in a recent podcast from the New York Public Library. More reasons to love the library. Revisit our review of Smith’s NW if you’re looking for a book to pick up at your local library.
In his new book, Pill City, journalist Kevin Deutsch set out to tell the real story of how, following the 2015 Baltimore riots, Charm City’s streets became flush with heroin and pills. But now local writers are raising serious questions about the veracity of Deutsch’s account. Among others, The Wire creator David Simon has called the book “a wholesale fabrication.” Last week, Newsday announced they were “reviewing Deutsch’s work over the four years he worked here,” and the New York Times, where Deutsch has contributed, followed suit.
Read our own Edan Lepucki’s great review of Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids? Then you might want to read Vivian Gornick’s complementary take on the book. In Bookforum, she reads Meghan Daum’s anthology as well as Kate Bolick’s Spinster, placing the two in a broader feminist context.