“The Hatchet Job Award appeals, in its depressingly calculated way, to the basest and most self-serving of journalistic instincts, and seems to arise out of, and perpetuate, a misunderstanding of what criticism actually is.” At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell criticizes the award for promoting the same bad criticism it claims to detest.
“Young black fiction writers in the U.S. often face a strange obstacle as they try to figure out who they are — it’s called American literature. A high number of pre-civil-rights-era novels by white American writers are likely to include tossed-off racial slurs and/or stock black characters, some of which make racially conscious readers want to hurl the book across the room, even if the wooly-headed pickaninnies are only peeking around a doorjamb on one page out of 400. There are exceptions, but shockingly few. You always have to brace yourself — always.” James Hannaham writes about growing up in Yonkers but finding himself in Southern literature.
“Maybe the optimists are right; maybe poetry does help you live your life. And maybe they are more right than they know, and it rounds you out for death.” Andrew O’Hagan writes for The Guardian about falling in love with poetry and coming to see the poet as “a risk-taker, a miracle-maker, a moral panjandrum and a convict of the senses.”
Out this week: The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli; My Documents by Alejandro Zambra; The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman; A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler; The First Wife by Erica Spindler; The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth; Sweet Nothing by Richard Lange; and The Strange Case of Rachel K by Millions 2013 Year in Reading favorite Rachel Kushner. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.