If your characters go on a road trip, do you have to take one, too? When Mary Miller wrote The Last Days of California about a family driving from Alabama to California to meet the rapture, she hadn’t even been to the desert herself. To ensure it was accurate, though, she mapped important destinations on the route. “For Western Louisiana, I thought, ‘Is there actually a Waffle House within forty miles of this border?’ because I wanted it to be accurate. So I had maps, and I was tracking mileage,” she told Down & Out.
Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant star in an eight-hour dramatization of Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Completed in 1960, and centered around the bloody battle of Stalingrad, the novel was deemed so dangerous by the KGB that the book itself was arrested. BBC’s excited, and all the episodes are available to download.
Paris Review editor Lorin Stein recommends a couple of self-help books to one reader in this week’s mail blog. “Let your self-help freak flag fly!” he writes. Such might put you in esteemed company. As Maria Bustillos pointed out in her poignant investigation for The Awl, David Foster Wallace treasured many self help books.
Ian Thompson for The Telegraph has written a fantastic, comprehensive piece on the fabulous allure of the Cuban-born, Italian writer Italo Calvino. Head back to The Millions for a couple of pieces on Calvino’s sixth memo and science fiction masterpiece, respectively.
“My whole life, I had used stories, both my own and other people’s, to check out of grocery store lines and long bus trips, stints in doctors’ waiting rooms, heartache, my own depression, and finally of the tedious exhaustion of new motherhood. Now, here I was in this 15-by-20 room, where monitors and alarms were constantly beeping, and there was no way out, except the unimaginable.” Alyson Foster, author of Heart Attack Watch, writes about her son’s illness and her love of reading.