The short shelf of books written by Jane Austen has been recently supplemented by many imaginative efforts–Jane Austen as an amateur detective, and several works depicting Austen characters (or Jane herself) as a vampire, a zombie or some other Gothic monster. So what’s next? Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is Pride and Prejudice continued.
At the New York Times, Elif Batuman has a long and absorbing article on the trial over Kafka’s manuscripts: “It’s impressive that [Kafka’s] sisters had between them four lawyers, although, to put things in perspective, Josef K. at one point meets a defendant who has six.”
W.H. Auden lived a secret life, not as a man with a second family or an illicit habit but as, weirdly enough, a genuinely kind human being. He paid for a friend’s costly operation and camped outside the apartment of a woman who suffered from night terrors until she felt safe enough to sleep on her own again. So why did the poet want to hide his good deeds? He claimed he didn’t want to be admired for basic decency.
“The American poem was not in a grave at that time; not by any measure. There was achievement, experiment, excitement. But there was also confinement. It could be felt in the air, in an ethos of conditional acceptance. A young woman poet was not yet a familiar sight. When Auden remarked about [Adrienne] Rich’s poems, after choosing her as a Yale Younger Poet, that they were ‘neatly and modestly dressed,’ it sounded more like a counsel for the nursery than acclaim for a new writer.” At The New Republic, Eavan Boland reflects on the legacy of the poet, whose posthumous collection, Later Poems, came out last week.
Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland that “There’s no ‘there’ there.” If the latest novel by Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue, is any indication, not everyone agrees — the author set the book in the Oakland of 2004. At The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, Matt Feeney delves into the book’s racial politics.
Most readers have their own idiosyncratic systems for displaying the most valuable titles they own. For a lot of people, it makes the most sense to keep their favorite books on a particular shelf. At The Paris Review Daily, Sadie Stein writes about an odd phenomenon — “The Phantom Shelf,” which consists of books you love so much you had to lend them to friends. (Related: Kevin Hartnett on reading our parents’ bookshelves.)