New this week: The Best of McSweeney’s; a new e-book edition of Highway Trade by John Domini; and new paperback editions of Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight and Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis. (You could also read Susan Straight’s Millions essay on Toni Morrison’s Sula.)
“Rather than showing one isolated capsule, the new hall would encompass nature and the human world…. The central theme would not be a certain animal, or even the landscape portrayed. Not one story but the fact that the stories are there. Albert E. Parr, strongly influenced by the burgeoning field of ecology, believed that the interconnectedness between disciplines was the story of the world.” Jaime Green writes for Longreads about the narratives behind the exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History. Also check out our own Bill Morris’s piece on the new Whitney Museum.
This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the "dispassionate first-person narrators" prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. "Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian."
"In 1865, Karl Marx confessed that he considered his chief characteristic 'singleness of purpose,' and that his favorite occupation was 'bookworming.' Five years later, Oscar Wilde wrote in an album called 'Mental Photographs, an Album for Confessions of Tastes, Habits, and Convictions' that his distinguishing feature was 'inordinate self-esteem.'" Over at The New Yorker, take a look at how Marcel Proust's questionnaires inspired a generation of question-by-by-question introspection.