“In the aftermath of tragedies, people become obsessive, do strange things. As the tragedy recedes and is sewn up into the past, these strange things appear increasingly weird to casual observers.” At The Rumpus, our own Lydia Kiesling reviews Donna Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch, which centers around a fictional bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On this day 124 years ago Raymond Chandler, hardest of the hard-boiled, was born. To celebrate the father of Philip Marlowe see these letters Chandler wrote to some of his contemporaries, listen to Chandler’s interview with Ian Fleming, and enjoy a couple classic Chandlerisms. Most importantly, read “The Simple Art of Murder,” the greatest essay about the mystery novel ever written.
Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes … it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.
“The terrible thing is that the reality behind these words depends ultimately on what the human being (meaning every single one of us) believes to be real. The terrible thing is that the reality behind all these words depends on choices one has got to make, for ever and ever and ever, every day.” James Baldwin on the artist’s struggle for “integrity.” Here’s a bonus piece from The Millions on Baldwin, race, and fatherhood.
Quarry, The final book of Iain M. Banks, who died this month, is now out. Also out: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, On the Floor by Afric Campbell, and, as an “e-single” spin-off to his bestseller Rules of Civility, Amor Towles is out with Eve in Hollywood.
Swarm and Spark, a new column at The Millions, invites you to write with your questions about publishing, the literary life, or writing. The column is written by two anonymous figures: a NYC editor with years in the industry and an MFA professor at a long-established program. Ask anything that has plagued, confounded, pleased or troubled you about your life in and around literature and you may be answered, always with respect: your question will be treated as anonymous as well. Send your true confessions, complaints and queries to [email protected].