When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
New this week: A Hundred Thousand Words by Bob Proehl; Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner; The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro; The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam; The Swan Book by Alexis Wright; The Life of the World to Come by Dan Cluchey; and Mortal Trash by Kim Addonizio. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
If you’re the kind of person who might fall asleep while reading a page-turner, you’re not alone. For Read It Forward, Jonathan Russell Clark writes about the challenge of literary sleepiness. For more of his writing, check out his essay on the art of the final sentence for The Millions.
There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about the traumas lurking in the comment section. It’s almost a rite of passage to get abused for something you write. But there’s another kind of trauma -- what happens when you get no comments at all? At The Rumpus, Rachel Newcombe writes about a new kind of emptiness.
"There’s something to be said for allusive titles: they can be intriguing and draw you in. And obscure titles at least make a change from the current trend for The Woman Who Climbed out of Her Car and Mowed the Lawn. (I made that one up, though it could be a bestseller). But when it comes to titles that are simply misleading, there are just far, far too many." In a piece for the Guardian Moira Remond considers some of the most misleading and misunderstood book titles, such as John Williams's Stoner (which our own Claire Cameron wrote about here.)
This week, Football Book Club is taking it to the next level: They're reading Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts and posting about Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half. If you're keeping score at home, that means this week is All Brosh, All the Time. Also, as per usual, they will not be watching the NFL and not liking it one bit.
We've heard about the weak dollar making things tough on Canadian readers, but the pain is being felt by Canadian publishers as well, as profit margins diminish. The latest casualty is publisher Raincoast Books.Philip Agee died today. His Inside the Company in 1973 may have created a modern day genre, one that would be contributed to by many former agents, the CIA tell-all.The Atlantic reaches deep into the archives to bring us "The History of Children's Books," from 1888:It is hard to imagine a world without books for children. There have been children's stories and folk-tales ever since man first learned to speak. "Many of them," in Thackeray's words, "have been narrated, almost in their present shape, for thousands of years since, to little copper-colored Sanscrit children. The very same tale has been heard by the Northmen Vikings, as they lay on their shields on deck; and by the Arabs, couched under the stars in the Syrian plains, when the flocks were gathered in, and the mares were picketed by the tents." Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature. Miss Yonge says, "Up to the Georgian era there were no books at all for children or the poor, excepting the class-books containing old ballads, such as Chevy Chase, and short tales, such as The King and the Cobbler, Whittington and his Cat." We shall nevertheless see that there were English books for children (and it is with no others that we have to deal) long before this time.