“The way Vermeer painted this wall is consistent with a photograph. It is not consistent with human vision.” In a fascinating new documentary by Penn and Teller, a digital-graphics artist spent five years building a lens, a room, and a harpsichord to figure out how.
“Her exchanges with Americans in small towns and rural communities are inspiring an appreciation of poetry and history – and remind us that poetry has value for all of our lives.” The Library of Congress appointed Tracy K. Smith to a second term as the 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2018-2019. For her second term, Smith edited an anthology called American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time, which will be published by Graywolf Press in association with the Library of Congress. Pair with: our review of Smith’s memoir, Ordinary Light.
“We have documented cases of at least 47 writers and journalists currently imprisoned in China. The average sentence for a writer is eight years in prison, and some sentences are even harsher.” PEN American Writers send a letter to Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, in response to his visit to the U.S. We have a few pieces about censorship to pair with it.
Following its interview with Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Bookforum published its review of the author’s debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase. As in many other books that take place in the post-Cold War age, the plot centers on a group of Ukrainian immigrants, fresh out of the former Soviet Union, who set up new lives in America. However, despite the subject matter, it’s a bit too reductive, Chloé Cooper-Jones writes, to classify the book as an immigrant novel. For more on the book, read Matthew Wolfson’s Millions review.
New this week: Yannick Murphy’s latest novel The Call is out this week, as is Tom Scocca’s chronicle of expat life, Beijing Welcomes You (Both are written up in our big second-half preview). Also arriving is a new novel from Helen Schulman, This Beautiful Life, and Bed, the debut effort of David Whitehouse, which has already been a (minor) prizewinner in the UK, and which the publisher compares to A Confederacy of Dunces.
With Halloween a week away, The New York Times asked Ayana Mathis and Francine Prose about the “most terrifying” books they’ve read. Their choices? Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tales. Pair their combined essays with Flavorwire‘s list of “50 of the Scariest Short Stories” and our own Ben Dooley‘s brief review of House of Leaves‘s “existential terror”.