The Yale Literary Magazine caught up with the reclusive author Denis Johnson to discuss the poets who made him want to write poetry, his favorite mass cultural product, and the chief reason he avoids giving interviews.
“Welcome to another night in the life of Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court justice, current queen of the best-seller list and suddenly the nation’s most high-profile Hispanic figure. She may be a relative newcomer to national life, plucked from circuit-court obscurity less than four years ago. But the release of her new memoir, My Beloved World, suggests that she has broader ambitions than her colleagues, to play a larger and more personal role on the public stage.”
On the occasion of Scribner’s publication of the “Restored Edition” of A Moveable Feast, Gioia Diliberto, biographer of Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley, writes of her discovery of the Hadley Hemingway tapes.Sarah Schmelling’s McSweeney’s piece “Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)” has spawned a book Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook, the canon retold in social networking parlance.Speaking of the canon, The Second Pass plays devil’s advocate and tells us which of history’s most praised books are best avoided. (We will pass over in silence the inclusion of One Hundred Years of Solitude.)Mark Athitakis writes about the National Book Award in 1980, “an interesting time for the prize.” The previous year, publishers pulled out of the awards, contending according to an NYT article, “the awards favored little-read books.” (This criticism resurfaced in 2004.) After 1980, the festivities ballooned to eight fiction categories before eventually being scaled back in subsequent years. (via Maud)In Slate, Nathaniel Rich wonders why “the most peaceful people on earth [Scandinavians] write the greatest homicide thrillers.”The “Significant Objects project,” in which worthless trinkets are sold on eBay along with original fiction written about said worthless trinkets, has launched. Participants include Curtis Sittenfeld, Lydia Millet, Matthew Sharpe, Sam Lipsyte, and a few dozen others. The eBay auctions can be found here.
“Palestinian literature is a literature of exile, a quest for identity in a hostile world, a writing of fractured lives and displaced hopes, a record of a human tragedy.” In the most recent issue of Asymptote Journal, Fakhri Saleh looks at Palestinian writing since 1948. Pair with Words Without Borders’s special Palestine issue, selected and introduced by Nathalie Handal.
New this week: Amnesia by Peter Carey; Outline by Rachel Cusk; The First Bad Man by Miranda July; Binary Star by Sarah Gerard; Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; Refund by Karen Bender; In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen; Harraga by Boualem Sansal; and West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 First-Half Book Preview.
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms “highbrow” and “lowbrow,” here’s an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.