Though Mark Twain first gained notoriety after publishing an essay about a famous jumping frog, the onetime Samuel Clemens didn’t really hit his stride until he became a public speaker, as the money he accrued from reading in front of audiences gave him a steady source of income. At Salon, Ben Tarnoff recounts Twain’s journey to the podium, one laid out more broadly in Tarnoff’s book about a group of San Francisco writers.
Dispirited by the deluge of advance review copies and publishing mailers (a plight to which I can relate), Ron Charles decided to forego traditional book criticism for the time being and instead to focus on reviewing something more immediately practical: a bookcase.
Back in March, I pointed readers to an interview with Minae Mizumura, whose recent book, The Fall of Language in the Age of English, makes a case against the dominance of the English language in the modern age. Now, at Full-Stop, Sho Spaeth reviews the book. Sample quote: “She has a curious blindness to what may be her greatest offense of all to the prevailing attitude of our age: a naive rejection of the idea that novels, and their novelists, exist merely to entertain.”
Dispatch From the Future and The Fallback Plan author Leigh Stein explains that she is writing her forthcoming memoir, Land of Enchantment, for “everyone who’s been to more funerals than weddings, everyone who lurks on the Internet late at night looking at pictures of their lost loves, everyone who cries when a certain song comes on the radio because they think it must be a sign.”
Ivyland author (and enthusiastic Tumblr-er) Miles Klee was interviewed by Matt Hackett, and a snippet was posted on Tumblr’s new Storyboard blog. If you like what you see, you can get even more from Klee courtesy of his recent Other People Podcast with Brad Listi.
A surreal theater production of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, directed by Yukio Ninagawa, premiered at the Lincoln Center Festival in July. Ian Buruma writes for the NYRB about the marriage of tradition and modernity, and Western and Eastern references in the play. As he puts it, "even without traditional references, the production—perhaps more than Murakami’s novel—is still unmistakably Japanese: stylized, poetic, comical, violent, full of spectacular effects, and often exquisitely beautiful to look at. The setting jumps at lightning speed from a bus station, to a library, to a sleazy bar area. Various characters emerge and disappear, like memories or scenes from a dream, in an assortment of moving transparent boxes."
"Rockslide Sky," an exhibition of art inspired by Roberto Bolaño's story "Gomez Palacio," has just completed its run at Fordham University's Center Gallery/Lipani Gallery…but a slideshow lives on in cyberspace. (I like feel this one would have made a nice cover for Last Evenings on Earth, but Bolañophiles may want to click through all 18.)
"The Hatchet Job Award appeals, in its depressingly calculated way, to the basest and most self-serving of journalistic instincts, and seems to arise out of, and perpetuate, a misunderstanding of what criticism actually is." At Slate, our own Mark O'Connell criticizes the award for promoting the same bad criticism it claims to detest.