Recommended reading: Wilson Quarterly’s thoughtful meditation on Tiananmen Square, 25 years later.
“I don’t want to write ‘funny’ books where we all have to laugh our heads of all the time. The humor should come from behind, where we don’t expect it. And the life of a well-known writer is something you can laugh about quite easily.” On the occasion of his new novel Dear Mr. M, our own Claire Cameron interviews Herman Koch over at Salon.
If you like your music country/folk-ish with a difference, Joshua James new album Build Me This might be of interest. No Depression, the roots music blog, describes the album as a hybrid of “chain-gang chants, country-fuzz rave-ups, gospel rafter-raisers, southern blues grinds, and civil war camp songs.” Try not to be taken aback by the Jared Leto-in-a-mud-mask cover art.
In 1979, William Gaddis taught a course at Bard College on “The Literature of Failure,” examining works that somehow focused on personal failure or insufficiency. These included, among other books, Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, as well as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In Bookforum, Casey Michael Henry takes on a related genre: the literature of obsolescence. You could also read James Cappio on meeting Gaddis in person.
Out this week: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides; Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien; A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo; An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon; Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (whom we interviewed recently); and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
It’s a big week for new books. Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke is now out, as is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy, Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge, and The Funny Man by John Warner, who recently appeared in these pages. Philip Roth’s American Trilogy is getting the Library of America treatment. (Capsule previews of all of the preceding titles are available here, incidentally). New in non-fiction is Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin. And out in paperback: none other than Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.