Out this week: The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique; Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann; High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire; The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai; Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch; A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor; The Confessions of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga; Don’t Try to Find Me by Holly Brown; The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe; Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco; Road Ends by Mary Lawson; and our own Edan Lepucki’s California (which you may have seen on Colbert). For more, go read our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
"As I got older, the Nigerian scam artist turned into a meme. The 'Nigerian prince' became a joke tossed around by white people with the same ease that 'Italian mobster' jokes were likely tossed around in the ‘70s—but aided now by the internet. Whenever I came across casual references to my people as scam artists, I’d wince. There was more to us than the scam. Hell—there was even more to the scam." On how novelist Teju Cole helped Ijeoma Oluo make peace with the Nigerian scam artist.
Whether or not you've read Grace Paley, you're likely to appreciate this George Saunders essay about her, which justifies his contention that she's "one of the great writers of voice of the last century." You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg's tribute to Paley upon her death.
Zachary Lazar talks to Mary Jo Bang about her radical translation of Dante's Inferno: in an attempt to render the shock Dante caused by writing in conversational Italian rather than the conventional Latin, Bang translated Dante's text in modern-day English adorned with references to American pop culture. A sample of the text is available online.
"The physical purpose of reproduction is, obviously, the continuation and renewal of genetic continuity, human survival. Its psychological purpose seems to me to be a particularly poignant kind of mutual learning and, matters being equal, ineffable comfort." What is the relationship between being an artist and being a parent? Maria Popova at Brain Pickings takes a look at sculptor Anne Truitt's collected journals, Daybook, to try and suss out an answer.
Valentine's Day may be all about happy couples, but the most memorable love stories in literature are tales of doom, from Oedipus to Romeo and Juliet to the many dysfunctional partnerships that populate contemporary literature. The Guardian offers a literary lovers' quiz for the lovelorn.
“My idea of the ideal literary dinner party remains locking a book under my left wrist while conveying risotto to my mouth with my right at the kitchen table.” Stacy Schiff talks literary dinner parties and more in this week’s New York Times By the Book column. Schiff’s latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, is out this week.