Most actors don’t go on The Tonight Show to promote literature, but leave it to James Franco to be the first to brag about getting his poetry M.F.A. to Jimmy Fallon. He discussed his new book, Directing Herbert White, and his mentor Frank Bidart. For more on the Bidart/Franco friendship, check out our own Janet Potter’s recap of attending an event featuring the two writers.
One of the most exciting new books of 2013 hits shelves today: Tenth of December by George Saunders. Also out are Will Self’s Booker shortlisted Umbrella, Rage Is Back by Adam Mansbach, Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra, Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher, The River Swimmer: Novellas by Jim Harrison, Y by Marjorie Celona, Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman Love is a Canoe by Ben Schrank, Driver’s Education by Grant Ginder, and new from NYRB Classics is Testing the Current by William McPherson, with an introduction by D.T. Max. New in paperback are Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru and The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. There are many more new books to explore, of course, in our huge 2013 books preview, published this week.
I thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of Emdashes’ Ask the New Yorker Librarians series.Michiko Kakutani hates Jonathan Franzen’s new memoir, The Discomfort Zone. Kakutani’s wrath filled pen aside, Ed explains why she’s right, and I have to agree. I looked back through the archives here and realized I hadn’t elaborated on it much beyond writing back in 2003 that “Franzen’s non-fiction bugs the heck out of me,” but it put me off enough that I avoided reading The Corrections for a long time because of it.Speaking of reviews, it’s a good thing Bob Dylan didn’t get the Franzen treatment. He tells contactmusic.com that while he doesn’t care about music reviews, the reviews for Chronicles Vol. 1 meant a lot to him: “Most people who write about music, they have no idea what if feels like to play it, but, with the book I wrote, I thought, ‘The people who are writing reviews of this book, man, they know what the hell they’re talking about. They know how to write a book, they know more about it than me.’ The reviews of this book, some of ’em almost made me cry – in a good way. I’d never felt that from a music critic, ever.”Even though it seems like there’s another “book banning” story in the news every week, the AP reports that the 405 challenges reported to the American Library Association last year is the smallest number since they started keeping track in the early 1980s. The challenges have dropped by more than half since the ALA started Banned Books Week to promote free expression. Kudos to the librarians.The second most brilliant magazine in the world (refer to the top item in this list for the first), The Economist has a characteristically well-considered a piece on the newspaper industry’s timid efforts to embrace the Internet. Thanks to Millions contributor Andrew for sending this along.
Esquire offers up a terrific time sink, “The 7 Greatest Stories in the History of Esquire Magazine.” Included among these gems of long-form journalism, which are all reprinted in full, is Richard Ben Cramer’s “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” which appeared on the list of best sports journalism we ran last month.Not long ago, we discussed the books that first stoked our love for reading. The Guardian takes it one step further, asking “What were your favourite books before you could read?“A brief YouTube profile of Annette Gordon-Reed, National Book Award winner for The Hemingses of Monticello.From The Morning News, a slightly insane, moderately epic profile of Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir.Also from The Morning News, a bit about The Chicagoan, the long-lost New Yorker-esque magazine for the Second City, now memorialized in coffee-table book form. If ever any cities (besides New York of course) could be granted New Yorker-like magazines, Chicago and Los Angeles would be deserving. BoingBoing points to some pdf excerpts of the book.Poll watching savant Nate Silver takes execrable rabble-rouser John Ziegler to task for a dubious survey of Obama supporters. Petulance ensues.
Out this week: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler; The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver; As Good as Gone by Larry Watson; Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay; My Last Continent by Midge Raymond; and The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.