In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it “helped her build the writing muscles needed” to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as “turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack,” his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that “the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle.”
Nikil Saval isn’t the only n +1 editor with a new book out. Through his magazine’s publishing arm, cofounder Benjamin Kunkel is releasing a play, Buzz, which comes on the heels of last month's Utopia or Bust. At Full Stop, William Harris reviews Buzz, calling it "the type of play that propels itself by introducing the indefinite edges of a mystery." It may also be a good time to read Kunkel’s Year in Reading entry.
Did Gollum have a vitamin D deficiency? In the Medical Journal of Australia, Joseph A. Hopkinson and Nicholas S. Hopkinson posit that the Lord of the Rings saga could've been prevented had the inhabitants of Middle Earth just gotten a little more sunlight. "Systematic textual analysis of The Hobbit supports our initial hypothesis that the triumph of good over evil may be assisted to some extent by the poor diet and lack of sunlight experienced by the evil characters."
In the Times, Jennifer Schuessler reviews Ishmael Beah’s new novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, which takes place in the same war-ravaged setting as the author’s 2007 memoir. Schuessler writes that Beah “delivers a glimpse of the hardships of postwar Sierra Leone along with strong and repeated assurances about the redemptive powers of stories themselves.”
The longlist for Canada's 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize has been announced. Notable omissions: "Ilustrado by Montreal’s Miguel Syjuco, which won the Man Asian Literary Award before it was even published; Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martel’s first novel since his breakthrough Life of Pi; and, most notably, Room by Emma Donoghue, which was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize."
Three finalists have been named for this year’s $10,000 Albertine Prize: Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, and Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine. Voting is open until Sunday, April 30th. Also, you can read more about Volodine’s work courtesy of Grant Munroe.