“For a man who is making his living as a critic to write about Scott Fitzgerald without mentioning The Great Gatsby just means that he doesn’t know his business. Many people consider The Great Gatsby one of the few classic American novels. I do myself. Obviously such a judgment is debatable.” The New Republic digs up a tribute by John Dos Passos.
“Back in the 1800s, for instance, when white women began recording their family food traditions, they took credit for their slaves’ handiwork. ‘You owned Sally, you owned her recipe,’ Toni Tipton-Martin reflected on an episode of the podcast Gravy.” At Mother Jones, read about the secret history of black chefs in America.
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
Hopefully you’ve read Eryn Loeb’s Millions review of Goodbye to All That, a collection of essays by noted writers on the weird sorrow of leaving New York City. Contributors include Dani Shapiro, whom we interviewed back in October, Emma Straub, who wrote an essay for The Millions back in July, and Millions staff writer Emily St. John Mandel. At the LARB, Mason Currey says he dreaded reading the book out of fear that it would raise old anxieties, but then says that his hesitations “quickly evaporated” when he started reading.
Terrible sex writing spans the globe according to this year’s Bad Sex Award shortlist. It includes: My Education by Susan Choi, The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood, House of Earth by Woody Guthrie, Motherland by William Nicholson, The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt, The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds, The City of Devi by Manil Suri, and Secrecy by Rupert Thomson. The winner will be announced on December 3.
“In real life, we are often so bound by social convention, but at the same time we all have secret, inexplicable aspects of ourselves. The parts that nobody else sees. In fiction, we are not bound by social convention, so the things that mystify and unsettle are allowed to rise to the surface.” Salon interviews Laura van den Berg about her new novel, Find Me, which we covered in our Great 2015 Book Preview.
The upcoming Supreme Court decision on gay marriage is drawing a lot of attention. But what about the other ruling — the one aimed at grizzled old men? At The Onion, a report on Justice Alito’s recent decision, which tersely states that marriage is a pact between a man and the sea.
“A coroner’s pronouncement of suicide (felo da se) resulted in forfeiture of the deceased’s goods and property to the state, often leaving any surviving relatives destitute. So the increasingly common verdict of temporary insanity (non compos mentis) may suggest a change in how people understood the act of self-destruction: no longer construed as a demonic temptation, it came instead to be viewed as a symptom of lunacy.” On the prevalence of suicide in eighteenth-century English literature.