British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard has died at the age of 90. She was famous for The Cazalet Chronicles and her literary love affairs with Kingsley Amis (one of her three husbands), Cecil Day-Lewis, and Arthur Koestler. Despite that her writing career spanned 60 years, she admitted that she found writing frightening in a recent interview. “You’ve got to be pretty nervous about the challenge, the blank page – anything could be on it, it could be crap or it could be wonderful.”
Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller looks at what this year’s bestseller list tells us about 2017. One of her conclusions, “2017 was the year that the very concept of a best-seller became even more dubious.” After reading her analysis, check out our Year in Reading lists, whose authors found joy in reading and viewed it as one of the few good things of this year, even if the bestsellers of the year didn’t reflect those feelings.
Some reviews of Dave Eggers’s new novel, Hologram for the King, are starting to appear: Carolyn Kellogg writes that the story is accessibly though “elegantly told,” and Michiko Kakutani describes the prose as almost surprisingly “pared down” and “Hemingwayesque.”
“[L]overs of more experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives but it was comedy fans who scored the highest for relating to others.” A new study suggests that people who read books are nicer, reports The Independent. In our recent interview with author John Vaillant he wholly agreed. “Empathy is what gives you the access,” he told us. “I see the writer (fiction or nonfiction) as a kind of permeable membrane through which the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others can pass and manifest.”
Deeply saddened to hear news that Jake Adam York died today. York published three critically acclaimed poetry collections between 2005 and 2010: Murder Ballads, A Murmuration of Starlings, and Persons Unknown as well as an additional work of literary history The Architecture of Address. Much of his work is available online as well, such as his poems “Vigil” and “Self-Portrait as Superman.” Edit: The Kenyon Review has uploaded three recordings of York reading his poetry. These are highly recommended as well.