Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the 21st Century, has said that he drew inspiration from the social-criticism novels of Austen, Dickens, and Balzac. According to the LA Review of Books, the new Gilded Age that Piketty critiques has generated–and will continue to generate–social novels of its own.
"Pornography has changed unrecognizably from its so-called golden age—the period, in the sixties and seventies, when adult movies had theatrical releases and seemed in step with the wider moment of sexual liberation, and before V.H.S. drove down production quality, in the eighties. Today’s films are often short and nearly always hard-core; that is, they show penetrative sex. Among the most popular search terms in 2015 were 'anal,' 'amateur,' 'teen,' and—one that would surely have made Freud smile—'mom and son.'" The New Yorker attempts to make some sense of modern pornography.
Among the better tidbits from Gary Shteyngart’s diary of his book tour for Little Failure is the fact that he’s apparently had fellow Russian immigrants ask him to sign books for “a failed paralegal” and “a worse failure than even you.” If, after reading that, you'd like another dose of Shteyngart, you could do worse than his Year in Reading entry.
Penelope Fitzgerald has been getting a lot of attention lately, largely due to Hermione Lee's newest biography. In an article for the Paris Review, Bridget Read considers the impact a better understanding of Fitzgerald's life could have on her modern reputation, and argues that "it is not extraordinary that she became a prize-winning novelist, though you may have heard otherwise. ... It is vital to emphasize that Fitzgerald’s novels were not achieved in spite of her domestic life; they were borne directly out of it. Her work is radical in that it suggests that, in fact, a feminine experience, a liminal experience, might be better equipped than a male one to address the contradictions of human existence taken up by the greatest literature."
Millions writer Sonya Chung has a trenchant essay up at Huffington Post on the topic of writing and motherhood: "Art Before Life: Questioning the Parenthood Question."
"The specter of the confessional haunts all first-person writing, and women’s writing in particular," but perhaps "the instinct to insert [the self] comes from a place of saying, 'I’m not an expert, I’m just a person; let me show you where I’m situated here in this thing I’m telling you about.'" Our own Lydia Kiesling writes about Meghan Daum, Lena Dunham, Leslie Jamison and the confessional impulse in nonfiction for Salon.
The New Yorker lovefest continues: Emdashes is compiling a list of the New Yorker articles that have appeared in Houghton Mifflin's annual Best American Essays series. It's a perfect guide for dipping into your Complete New Yorker set. Update: Emdashes has also done a "short stories" version of the list.My cousin Mitch produces a survey of state quarters. Arkansas: thumbs down. Connecticut: thumbs up!The Regret the Error blog (which tracks all sorts of funny newspaper corrections) has produced a book with a serious sounding subtitle.I would love to get my hands on Transit Maps of the World, an encyclopedic book that's already been noted by Boing Boing and kottke.