At The Nervous Breakdown, Micah McRary talks with Leslie Jamison about her use of POV, her new book of essays and whether her criticism might be dubbed “evasive biography.” You could also read our interview with Jamison or else read Ryan Teitman’s review of The Empathy Exams.
Graywolf Press’s Poem of the Week is “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” by David Bowie-fan Tracy K. Smith. She writes, “Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep / Or charging through his veins.” Pair with Sophia Nguyen’s Millions review of Smith’s new memoir, Ordinary Light.
Ilan Stavans’s introduction to the quadricentennial edition of Don Quixote is available on the Literary Hub website. As he explains it, the narrative is both baffling and perfect: “What I like most about Don Quixote is its imperfection. I wasn’t wrong in my teens about the sloppiness of the writing; it is just that my attitude was too pedantic. It is, unquestionably, a defective narrative. Cervantes is often criticized as a numb and careless stylist.”
Three weeks ago, Vishwas Gaitonde wrote a piece for us about a house in India once owned by the family of George Orwell. Now, in the Times, Jane Perlez pays a visit to Burma, where Orwell served in the Imperial Police Force and gathered impressions for his first novel, Burmese Days.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better — h/t Dan Farrely]