New this week: The Brunist Day of Wrath by Robert Coover; Frog Music by Emma Donoghue; Off Course by Michelle Huneven; And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass; Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland; The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne; Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman; and The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2014 Book Preview.
“Here is the trouble with looking for ourselves in the writers whose works we admire, at least if we are proposing to be their biographers. For if we are in search of ourselves, or in this case our own troubled teenaged selves roaming New York, then we are apt to downplay those parts of the life that don’t correspond with that need for recognition.” Anne Boyd Rioux writes about biography and the distance, good or bad, between subject and biographer for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
It’s impossible to deny that memoir writing is having a bit of a moment, as more and more major books delve deeply into authors’ lives for material (here’s looking at you, Knausgaard). But what happens when memoir meets straight history? According to The Canadian Press, both genres only become more interesting. “[People] think non-fiction is just boring, fuddy-duddy history books, [but] if you look at Canadian literature right now, non-fiction is incredibly exciting.”
“I started keeping a journal when I was eight, but even before then I was a kid who loved making long lists of everything I could see or remember. Coconut, tricycle, jeepney, air freshener, I would write, for example, and my lists would lengthen and become even more specific as I grew to know the world around me. […] Reading and writing always seemed a part of my life and identity.” For The Rumpus, Swati Khurana interviews Janine Joseph about writing poems as teenagers, writing from experience, and what it meant for Joseph to “come out” as an undocumented immigrant.
In lieu of writing a legitimately popular book, or having Barack Obama photographed while being “given” your book, it appears that you can get onto the New York Times bestsellers list for about $200,000.
Lorin Stein has made the complete archive of The Paris Review interviews available for free online. The New York Times explains why this is such fantastic news: “The first issue of The Paris Review contained an interview with E.M. Forster. The new issue contains two, with Norman Rush…and the French controversialist Michel Houellebecq. In between there have been more than 300 others, from Ernest Hemingway (as indignant as a gored bull) to Jorge Louis Borges (funny and quizzical) and Hunter S. Thompson (surely on a variety of pharmaceuticals). Nearly all are worth a look-in.”
In the past ten years, we’ve seen many attempts to construct a taxonomy of the hipster, which is why it’s refreshing to come across a novel account of the term’s origins. At The Atlantic, Karen Swallow Prior makes a convincing case that T.S. Eliot, in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, invented the “cuffed-trouser urbanite on the hunt for authenticity.”
“How could we possibly trust any creature that comes into the world wearing such a caul of ambiguity? That’s “essayists.” Four hundred and four years later, they continue to flourish.” John Jeremiah Sullivan offers a loose history of the essay, essayists, and all their many contradictions in a piece for The New Yorker.