This month, a Brentwood School archivist unearthed a two-page poem entitled “A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining.” The kicker? It was written by a 17-year-old Douglas Adams, nine years before he published The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Writing for NPR’s Book News round-up, Annalisa Quinn steers readers toward a recently released FBI file alleging that Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes was in fact a “communist writer” with a “long history of subversive connections.” In her update, Quinn shares some counter-arguments from Fuentes’s colleague and biographer, Julio Ortega.
What’s the best book of the 21st century? To date, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao seems to be the favorite – the BBC polled a few dozen US critics and Junot Diaz‘s novel came in first place. The full list is available from The Guardian, and includes Zadie Smith‘s White Teeth and Michael Chabon‘s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, both of which appeared alongside Oscar Wao in our own “Best of the Millennium” list a few years ago.
Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, died this morning in Monroeville, Alabama at the age of 89. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for Mockingbird, which later formed the basis of a film starring Gregory Peck. To learn more about her legacy, you could read our own Michael Bourne on the hidden character of Atticus Finch, or else read Robert Rea on a pilgrimage he took to her home.
We’ve written a fair bit about the By the Book series at the Times. You can read a selection of the best entries in a collection published by the paper. This week, the series featured another novel guest: Alan Gilbert, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Sample quote: “I don’t seek out books about music. I’ve read them over the years, but somehow, as a genre, it isn’t something I am specifically looking for.”