Edith Wharton is known as a novelist but she was also a wonderful hostess, whose guests (including Henry James) remember her as “kindness and hospitality incarnate.” Kate Bolick has turned Wharton’s life-long attempt to master “the complex art of civilized living” into an entertaining guide, “The Guesthouse of Mirth,” just in time for those last few summer parties. Pair with Roxana Robinson‘s reflections on Wharton’s life and works, including the original The House of Mirth.
The Critterati pets-in-literary-garb contest ends at midnight tonight! You can view a gallery of the submissions as they appear, and some of them are phenomenal. I especially like Humbert Humbert. I don’t know how these people got their animals to cooperate (drugs, probably). Big Ed and Nadine, aged six months, made it quite clear that under no circumstances would they be dressed up as Lata and Kabir from A Suitable Boy (what am I supposed to do with this tiny cardboard cricket bat now?) Henry and June was also a non-starter, but that might have been unkind to do to siblings, anyway. No one wants to see his sister chew up a garter belt. Evidently I’m not the only one to encounter massive opposition.
This week in book-related infographics: a look at “What Age Do Writers Publish Their Most Famous Works?” from Electric Literature.
Happy(ish) birthday, Gregor Samsa! Here’s a piece from NPR commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. Kafka insisted that the story’s insect should never be drawn, but of course Vladimir Nabokov had his own ideas about that. To round out the Kafka news, here’s a review from The Millions of Reiner Stach’s Kafka: The Decisive Years.
Ben Lerner has a story [subscription required] in this week’s New Yorker that, like his debut novel Leaving the Atocha Station, features a protagonist named The Author. The magazine interviewed Lerner about the invitation to blur his fiction with his autobiography. He says that his work in an exercise in “activating those questions in peculiar ways—but the questions, not the answers, are what strike me as interesting.”
Among the raft of news stories that came out about Facebook recently, you may have missed the company’s quiet revolution in grammar, signified by its adoption of the much-debated singular “they.” If thinking about this change makes you queasy, just remember that singular “they” has been around since the days of Chaucer. (Related: Fiona Maazel on bad grammar.)