In the new Granta, Adam Johnson writes about the mind-bending experience of traveling to North Korea, an experience which informed his Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the saddest anecdote — and there are a lot of sad anecdotes — is the one about the North Korean tour guide who couldn’t believe the author didn’t want to buy knockoff goods.
At 3 Quarks Daily, Akeel Bilgrami’s essay on the pleasures of literature: “To understand what is special about literature is not to delegate the emotions to literature while retaining thought for philosophy and science. The idea is to find in the distinctly expressive function of literature, a refusal of that tired dualism.” (via Book Bench)
The Atlantic has a great list up: “10 Essential Books for Thought-Provoking Summer Reading,” including The Late American Novel.
“A trip to the 21st century. Prague, maybe, or London, some big city where he can wander around being a bored tourist, snapping his gum, picking his nose in cathedrals, snapback on crooked and hopping from foot to foot, looking for a basketball court.” Thats what it would look like if Achilles (and other sad literary characters) got the holidays they deserved.
Apropos of nothing in particular, here’s a fantastic cake inspired by Moby-Dick. Apropos of whales in general, however, is this beautiful video on the disintegration of a whale carcass inspired by “Radiolab.”