Recommended Reading: Dan Kois on his favorite books of the year. On Alissa Nutting’s Tampa, he writes: “Tampa mixes deadpan social satire, lurid true-crime storytelling, and out-and-out porn into a poisonous stew.”
My book, The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books is out today (more on that here), and also out this week is Joshua Foer’s (the latest of the Foer’s to throw his hat in the authorial ring) Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, buzzed about food memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, a new look at the modern world’s most ubiquitous commodity James Gleick’s The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, Library of America boxing anthology At The Fights: American Writers on Boxing, Mat Johnson’s Poe-inspired Pym, and Victoria Patterson’s This Vacant Paradise. New in Paperback: Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask and Chang-rae Lee’s The Surrendered.
In an interview with Jonathan Lethem, the NBCC’s Jane Ciabaratti offers, inter alia, a sympathetic reading of Chronic City; both have more affection than Kakutani did for what Lethem calls “the claptrap contraption plot I invented.” Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, in a flash of inspiration, assigns the book to the estimable Alexander Theroux – the only non-Latin writer who can credibly use the word “prosopographical” in a review. (But, attn editor: “not a jot” twice? in subsequent paragraphs?) A marathon bi-borough reading of the entire novel continues tonight at McNally Jackson.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of Emdashes’ Ask the New Yorker Librarians series.Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Franzen’s new memoir, The Discomfort Zone. Kakutani’s wrath filled pen aside, Ed explains why she’s right, and I have to agree. I looked back through the archives here and realized I hadn’t elaborated on it much beyond writing back in 2003 that “Franzen’s non-fiction bugs the heck out of me,” but it put me off enough that I avoided reading The Corrections for a long time because of it.Speaking of reviews, it’s a good thing Bob Dylan didn’t get the Franzen treatment. He tells contactmusic.com that while he doesn’t care about music reviews, the reviews for Chronicles Vol. 1 meant a lot to him: “Most people who write about music, they have no idea what if feels like to play it, but, with the book I wrote, I thought, ‘The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they’re talking about. They know how to write a book, they know more about it than me.’ The reviews of this book, some of ’em almost made me cry – in a good way. I’d never felt that from a music critic, ever.”Even though it seems like there’s another “book banning” story in the news every week, the AP reports that the 405 challenges reported to the American Library Association last year is the smallest number since they started keeping track in the early 1980s. The challenges have dropped by more than half since the ALA started Banned Books Week to promote free expression. Kudos to the librarians.The second most brilliant magazine in the world (refer to the top item in this list for the first), The Economist has a characteristically well-considered a piece on the newspaper industry’s timid efforts to embrace the Internet. Thanks to Millions contributor Andrew for sending this along.
This track-by-track take on Jason Isbell’s newest album Something More Than Free is as comprehensive as it is intelligent. Isbell, who rose to fame as a member of Athens, GA mainstays The Drive By Truckers, has seen most of the press narrative around him focus on his trips to rehab and subsequent recovery–this record, however, aims for something more. Here’s our Torch Ballads & Jukebox Music column to satisfy any lingering musical urges.
People laugh when I tell them: everybody’s born right-handed, but the best overcome it. But now, take heed my Southpaw brethren. Science may be on our side. One recent study indicates that left-handedness may lead to “a boost in a specific kind of creativity—namely, divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively.”