Out this week: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt; The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant; Cementville by Paulette Livers; Damage Control by Amber Dermont; Blood Will Out by Up in the Air author Walter Kirn; Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler; and The Haunted Life, a new collection of early writing by Jack Kerouac.
There are plenty of good reasons to read classic literature, but Mary Beard reminds us that there’s a different kind of classic that’s worth revisiting and questioning. “You do the ancient world much greater service if you keep arguing with them.”
Writing about a foreign country is always a dodgy proposition, but it seems to be especially thorny when English people and Americans take on their transatlantic brethren. Looking over two contributions to the genre by English writers — Terry Eagleton’s Across the Pond and A.A. Gill’s To America With Love — Carlin Romano concludes that neither manages to “teach us something new about ourselves.”
It’s not easy being a seagull. Over at the London Review of Books, Mary Wellesley takes a sympathetic look at how the much-maligned bird has been treated throughout the history of literature. Afterwards, let this essay from The Millions by Kristen Scharold on the joys of birdwatching lift your spirits a bit.
Freedom, The Imperfectionists, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet were some of the biggest books of the year, both literally and among our readers. But which one of them could stop a bullet for you? Electric Lit posts a video of the necessary research.