Jeff Sharlet traveled to Russia because he “wanted to see what ordinary LGBT life was like in a nation whose leaders have decided that ‘homosexualism’ is a threat to its ‘sexual sovereignty.’” What he found was unsettling and terrifying, but the courage of the LGBT community members he interviewed is also incredibly inspiring. Set aside time to read this one. It’s essential.
A hundred years after the First World War began, many people are looking anew at the conflict, among them Thomas Laquer, who wrote a lengthy reflection of its causes in an LRB review of Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers. In The New Yorker, George Packer uses the war as a jumping-off point for an essay on a broader topic: the evolution of war literature in the modern world.
“There’s no doubt that Life A User’s Manual takes an approach to depicting reality that is very different from the standard realist novel, which we have been conditioned to believe is the best and most-preferred way of representing our world…Though not without its enlightening aspects, this conversation has generally fallen into a simplistic dichotomy, where realist writing is described as giving us the real world of everyday life, and anything other than realist writing is seen as directing its energies toward a vague something that no one cares to define very well.” A look at Oulipo and its legacy from Lauren Elkin and Scott Esposito, who recently wrote an Oulipo-themed Year in Reading for us.
Among the books hitting shelves this week are Pulitzer winner and New Yorker staffer Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University and memoirist and poet Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb. Also new, Melville House is putting out a novella, Union Jack, by Nobel laureate Imre Kertész, and NYRB Classics has published Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy a novel by Olivia Manning based on her time in Eastern Europe during World War II. Rachel Cusk provides an introduction to the edition.
You may have heard that Jess Row has a new book on shelves. The plot follows a man who undergoes a surgical procedure to change his race. In an interview at Guernica, the author talks to Grace Bello about writing and race, teaching in Hong Kong and what it means to grow up in Baltimore. You could also read the author’s Year in Reading entry.