You’re probably up to your neck in World Cup coverage, but here are some gems well worth your attention no matter what: Teju Cole created a “Copa do Mundo do Brasil” playlist to set the mood; Pablo Torre’s one-sentence-long summation of Day One in São Paulo; an excerpt from Aleksandar Hemon’s The Matters of Life, Death, and More: Writing on Soccer; The New Republic’s round-up of “eleven writers and intellectuals on the World Cup’s most compelling characters“; and, of course, Shaj Mathew’s recent Millions review of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil.
Another hip-hip for long-form journalism. George Packer‘s piece in the New Yorker on Richard Holbrooke and the Af-Pak War reminds one that some things — complicated geopolitical matters, for example — must be explored at length. Subscribers can read the full article in the digital edition here. Short of that, read Packer’s assessment of the McChrystal Report on his blog.
The Millions is thrilled to welcome a new staff writer, Ismail Muhammad, whose first piece for the site publishes today. (You may have seen Ismail’s work at Zyzzyva and the Los Angeles Review of Books previously.) He splits his time between Los Angeles and Oakland, where he’s currently working on a dissertation and a novel. Find him on Twitter @trapmotives and Instagram @trapmotifs.
The New York Review of Books posts a vintage essay by Joan Didion on the films of Woody Allen: “This notion of oneself as a kind of continuing career—something to work at, work on, ‘make an effort’ for and subject to an hour a day of emotional Nautilus training, all in the interests not of attaining grace but of improving one’s ‘relationships’—is fairly recent in the world, at least in the world not inhabited entirely by adolescents. In fact the paradigm for the action in these recent Woody Allen movies is high school.”
“Now I wrote until near dawn, wanting a map of the literary nation, a beautiful evocation of how we are truly a nation of village and city and prairie and brownstone, of Rockies and bayous and mesas. Novels give to every reader someone else’s home. Can we not see this – we of wonder and grievance?” Susan Straight creates a map of America in 737 novels, prompting us to remember the perennial literary question: What is the greatest American novel?
The finalists are set and the judges have been selected, so that means that The Morning News’s Tournament of Books is officially underway. As a special bonus to Millions readers, one of this year’s deciders is our own Lydia Kiesling. Also? One of the books that made the final cut is none other than the one I told you to read a month ago.