Another phone-related book project: Call Me Ishmael, a site that collects stories about reading and life via voicemail messages. The instructions are simple: call Ishmael at 774-325-0503 and leave him a message “about a book you love and a story you have lived.” Several of these messages are transcribed and posted online every week but, if we’re being honest, we appreciate this project for the pun as much as for the stories.
University Of Chicago Press has come out with a new edition of a somewhat forgotten classic in the campus novel genre. Randall Jarrell was a National Book Award-winning poet who wrote only one novel, Pictures from an Institution, about the fictional Benton College. The Kenyon Review published the opening of the novel in its Winter 1953 issue. It begins: “Half the campus was designed by Bottom the Weaver, half by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Benton had been endowed with one to begin with, and had smiled and sweated and spoken for the other.”
“Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. … America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway.” Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week’s New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
The Netflix-like book subscription service Oyster Books has shut down and most of its team is heading over to Google. Google is reluctant to admit that Oyster was a purchase, yet sources indicate they will begin paying investors for the right to hire most of their staff. As we wave goodbye, here is one last read from The Oyster Review.
What can we make of the fact that members of the Guantánamo Bay medical staff have adopted Shakespearean names in “an attempt to avoid being held liable for any mistreatment of detainees?” Globe Theatre artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and Guantánamo detainees lawyer Clive Stafford Smith ponder the question.