According to a recent survey, Danes are the happiest people in the world. This came as a surprise, writes Mathilde Walter Clark, to most of her fellow Scandinavians, who know very well the unhappier elements of their daily lives. The problem, she suggests, is that words like “happiness,” “ambition” and “contentment” have subtly different meanings in different languages — in other words, happiness in Denmark isn’t the same thing as happiness in America. You could also read our own Emily St. John Mandel’s review of the Danish writer Jonas T. Bengtsson’s A Fairy Tale.
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.
It’s always disappointing when your novel fails to get published, but what if that novel were still lurking online? At The New York Times, Jason K. Friedman writes about finding the Amazon and Google links for his novel that never made it to print. “Google admits, ‘We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,’ which in this case would be the planet Earth.” Pair with: Our own Edan Lepucki’s essay on how to cope with not selling your novel.
A pair of debuts are making waves this week. Amy Waldman’s The Submission ponders an alternate present in which a Muslim man is the anonymous winner of the search for a design to build the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. Ernest Kline’s Player One is a “genre-busting,” pop culture-infused take on the virtual reality future that awaits us.
Could James Baldwin be America’s greatest essayist? Ta-Nehisi Coates believes so — at The Atlantic, he argues that The Fire Next Time shows Baldwin committing “amazing acts of intellectual and emotional courage.” (Related: Buzz Poole paid tribute to Baldwin back in 2008.)