“The first section of the book inevitably ends up taking on a Rashomon-ic quality, as Sotatsu’s father, mother, brother and sister all get their say about what transpired during his time in prison, along with a prison guard who observed him. But [Jesse] Ball doesn’t let them fall into the he said-she said realm of one-note characters — these are fully fleshed-out people, whose thoughts, emotions and agendas are as real (and sometimes as contradictory) as your own.” On Silence Once Begun.
Anne Carson has a new story in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, about swimming and its discontents. As she puts it, “People think swimming is carefree and effortless. A bath! In fact, it is full of anxieties.” Pair with her first published short story in the January issue of Harper’s.
Thanks to recent advancements in digital scanning technology, it looks like the Herculaneum scrolls will be made legible after some two thousand years. The new technique allows for close study of the scrolls without causing irreparable damage to the papyrus via exposure to the moisture in the air, an issue which had dogged scholars for centuries. If the impermanence and tenuousness of writing is more your speed, here’s a bit on Twitter, instead.
“We live in the age of opinion — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate.” The New York Times approached six accomplished critics, Stephen Burns, Katie Roiphe, Pankaj Mishra, Adam Kirsch, Sam Anderson, and Elif Batuman to explain, in the spirit of Alfred Kazin, “what it is they do, why they do it and why it matters.”
New this week: The State We’re In by Ann Beattie; Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner; The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips; The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton; In The Language of Miracles by Najia Hassib; Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie; and Subway Stations of the Cross by Ins Choi. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.