Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”
Readers of the 1960s and 70s ran into many people who worried that writers were learning from television. In 2015, the concern is slightly different -- are writers taking cues from video games? At the Ploughshares blog, Matthew Burnside tackles the game-ification of books.
Recommended reading: one essay on George Orwell's stomping grounds on the Scottish island where he wrote 1984 in the throes of a tubercular fever, and another on the tiny Indian town of Motihari where he was born.
New this week: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Carnival by Rawi Hage, In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell, Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani, the collected letters of Italo Calvino, and the seventh issue of McSweeney's food mag Lucky Peach.
Chances are that your mental image of Pavlov is that of a man giving commands to a barking dog. However, as a new biography makes clear, the doctor who brought us his very own adjective has a far more complicated legacy. In The New Yorker, Michael Specter writes about the man behind the bell.
A while back, I pointed readers to Ayn Rand’s version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, helpfully published by The Toast’s Mallory Ortberg. It satisfied those of you who never understood why Harry didn’t slough off his legions of parasitic friends. Now, The Toast brings us the conclusion to the series, in which Harry’s labors bring him the rewards he deserves. Sample quote: “I have earned the Elder Wand through my own achievements.”