“What made The Great Gatsby so great? Does everyone think he’s that great? Why?” Just in time for the back-to-school rush: essay questions from a teacher who didn’t finish any of the required reading (a.k.a. McSweeney’s).
The 113th anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s birthday was last Thursday, but the author lives on in America’s cultural memory thanks to the title of his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Unfortunately, the titular phrase seems to be taken at face value by many people these days, and that can lead to some groan-worthy invocations. A newly-minted Tumblr blog illustrates the point.
Full Stop editor Anna-Claire Stinebring argues that Roy Lichtenstein’s art has “come full circle” thanks, at least in part, to the popularity of Mad Men and 1960s nostalgia. Matt Weiner’s drama, after all, “explores but also glamorizes the world that produced the material for Lichtenstein’s most famous paintings.”
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.
Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy that aren’t the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.” Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven’t even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
Garth, Ben, Andrew and Max appear in today’s “Digest” at The Morning News. The topic is movies based on books. Also at TMN: the Tournament of Books is underway.Readers with an interest in sales figures for books and their drawbacks should take a look at the comments of our follow-up post on the Beautiful Children free book promotion. Several anonymous commenters, whom one suspects are probably industry insiders, have shared their insights.A quick but interesting interview with Paul Theroux. This summer, Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star will be published. In it, he retraces his path from The Great Railway Bazaar thirty years ago. (via)The National Book Critics Circle Award winners have been announced. In the fiction category, Junot Díaz took home the prize for The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz was a part of our Year in Reading in December.The finalists have been announced for the Kiriyama Prize, which recognizes books that “relate in some significant way to the Pacific Rim or South Asia, to a particular culture or part(s) of these regions, or to people from these regions.” Among them is I Love Dollars by Zhu Wen, which was reviewed here by Ben, from which a blurb was used on the Kiriyama Prize site.The Stranger reminds us of our bookselling days, chasing those damn book thieves down the street.The Observer reports on two new bylines arriving at the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh and Ariel Levy of the New York Times and New York respectively. (via)Literary frauds are all over the news again, and the LA Times serves up a delightful accounting of hoaxers going all the way back to the 1700s. (via)We are all stereotypical readers: “The British buy books by television personalities, Americans are obsessed with self-improvement, French choices are more highbrow, the Germans like holidays while the Japanese have more eclectic tastes.” (via)A new issue of The Quarterly Conversation is out. Among the offerings: over- and underrated books and Sam J. Miller’s essay positing that short stories are far from dead, as some big names would have you think.Apple head honcho Steve Jobs told the New York Times in January that “people don’t read anymore.” The Raleigh Quarerly took umbrage and is now holding a contest that asks for submissions “featuring a main character named, uh, Steve, who reads something that transforms his life.”
“Our contemporary analogues to the personal notebook now live on the web — communal, crowdsourced and shared online in real time.” Jenna Wortham writes on how archiving the Internet would change history. We’ve written about the implications of the Internet more than once.