“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym ‘GAN,’ which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
"At home, I dedicate occasional whole days to reading as if I’m a convalescent. The ideal place for this is the bath, where the body floats free," Rachel Kushner told The New York Times in a "By the Book" interview. Yet just because her reading style is leisurely doesn't mean her reading is; she discusses her love of Proust and avoidance of books known for their plots. For more Kushner, read our own interview with her or her 2013 Year in Reading post.
"I can't control the kittens. Too many whiskers! Too many whiskers!" A woman writes down everything her husband says in his sleep. Why isn't this on Twitter? (via attackattack.tumblr.com)
Azadeh Moaveni writes about what it was like to own her dog, named London, in Iran: "Most Turks, like most Iranians, recoiled from dogs as though they were grotesque vermin; only ‘guard’ dogs, charged with protecting humans and their goods, were deemed less offensive, though still repellent." To Moaveni, it was like cultural rebellion.
Sometimes, it’s easier to read or watch something that’s light and airy, as opposed to seeking out art that challenges your perspective. Millions contributor Fiona Maazel generally thinks of herself as a person who instinctively chose nuance over breeziness. But lately, she’s had to ask herself a tough question -- is she actually more attracted to the anodyne?