The Common has a newly translated chapter of Turki al-Hamad’s novel Al Karadib. Its publication online coincides with the one-year anniversary of al-Hamad’s arrest in December 2012 for “tweets considered apostasy.” This featured chapter is the first part of the book to be translated into English.
“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.” Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso on envy and the purpose of writing. Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness.
New this week: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, and three newly translated books from by Icelandic author Sjón: The Blue Fox, The Whispering Muse, and From the Mouth of the Whale. New in paperback is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.
In the mid-aughts, Jonathan Gottschall pioneered “literary Darwinism,” a new form of analysis which applied evolutionary theory to works of literature. It was part of a wider upheaval in English departments across the country. Now, more than ten years later, we can make an assessment: how’d it work out for Gottschall? The answer: not well. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
On the Media‘s Bob Garfield hosts “The Genius Dialogues,” a new interview podcast featuring recipients of the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called genius grants. First-season guests include Radiolab creator Jad Abumrad; Luis von Ahn, founder of the language learning app DuoLingo; microbiologist Manu Prakash; choreographer Elizabeth Streb; and writer and producer David Simon. We’ve hosted a few geniuses here as well, including Ben Lerner, Yiyun Li, and Karen Russell.