Are we now living in a golden age of the uncanny? The Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour suspects that we are, and she also suspects that our historical moment, populated as it is with alienating developments and surreal art, is key to understanding the work of Helen Oyeyemi. In the Times, Khakpour reviews Oyeyemi’s new novel. (You could also read both writers’ Year in Reading pieces.)
“Books: As with food and clothing, they’re a commodity that elicits status anxiety for many people, particularly the insecure. And wherever there is status anxiety, there are potential minefields. We need to tread with the lightness of meringue.” Henry Alford explains the etiquette of books for The New York Times.
“My idea of the ideal literary dinner party remains locking a book under my left wrist while conveying risotto to my mouth with my right at the kitchen table.” Stacy Schiff talks literary dinner parties and more in this week’s New York Times By the Book column. Schiff’s latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, is out this week.
“There used to be a time when people read literature to confront stuff. To experience things vicariously—whether it’s a forbidden scene or a forbidden idea. I think now we’re looking to literature for an escape from that. I’m not sure why that is.” Guernica interviews Marlon James, whose most recent novel A Brief History of Seven Killings was reviewed on the Book Report.
Among the books hitting shelves this week are Pulitzer winner and New Yorker staffer Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University and memoirist and poet Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb. Also new, Melville House is putting out a novella, Union Jack, by Nobel laureate Imre Kertész, and NYRB Classics has published Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy a novel by Olivia Manning based on her time in Eastern Europe during World War II. Rachel Cusk provides an introduction to the edition.