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.”
For whatever reason, the Zippo lighter has earned a place as an icon of Americana, a symbol of everything simple and reliable in the country. At the Ploughshares blog, Nancy McCabein pays a visit to the Zippo Museum, punctuating her account with quotes from works of literature that feature the lighter.
“I saw a novel with a mysterious-looking black woman on the cover. That was why I picked it up – because of the African woman on the cover of a book in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section. I read the first page and my eyes nearly popped out.” Book Riot has a killer roundup of posts in honor of Octavia Butler‘s birthday today, including five other sci-fi authors on being inspired by her writing (that’s Nnedi Okorafor above). Pair with our own Edan Lepucki‘s consideration of Butler’s novel Kindred.
The New York Review of Books posts a vintage essay by Joan Didion on the films of Woody Allen: “This notion of oneself as a kind of continuing career—something to work at, work on, ‘make an effort’ for and subject to an hour a day of emotional Nautilus training, all in the interests not of attaining grace but of improving one’s ‘relationships’—is fairly recent in the world, at least in the world not inhabited entirely by adolescents. In fact the paradigm for the action in these recent Woody Allen movies is high school.”
In the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller explains why all the year-end lists are a tiresome exercise: “What annoys and disappoints me, though, is the chilly retrospective nature of such lists. They drain all of the blood from the critic’s job. They require a cold, methodical calculation of passions long past. They’re about yesterday’s yearning. Compiling them is a bit like trying to remember why you used to be in love with so-and-so.” (Thanks, Laurie)
Why aren’t more people reading Italian literature? Is it due to an English “mistrust of ‘abroad’?” “Linguistic incompetence?” Or is it that “Italy’s not produced much that’s exciting or innovative … for a few hundred years?” Peter Hainsworth, author of Italian Literature: A Very Sort Introduction, investigates.