Alex Ross writes for The New Yorker about Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and modern pop culture. Jay-Z and Kanye come up, as does Jonathan Franzen‘s The Corrections (which we’ve written about here and here) and Virginia Woolf‘s The Waves.
“But the truth is that even very small actions can ripple outwards and have huge and far-reaching effects. In other words, the fires you start can be little, but don’t think they don’t matter, or that they won’t spread.” The Los Angeles Review of Books interviewed Celeste Ng about writing about women, transracial adoption, and her novel, Little Fires Everywhere (featured in multiple Year in Reading entries).
“In a world where reality has become stranger than fiction, actual books are no longer selling.” At The New Republic, Morgan Jerkins talks with agents, authors, booksellers, editors, and publicists about whether the Trump presidency is bad for the book business. And on that note, let’s revisit our own Bill Morris on book releases: “There are few iron facts in the crapshoot of the literary life, but here’s one: In book publishing — no less than in music, war, and sex — timing is everything.”
“Who was Bret Easton Ellis describing when he tweeted: ‘The best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn’t able to achieve’?” The Guardian has a delicious quiz of literary putdowns. And speaking of fighting, let’s talk about books about violence.
“Expertly constructed, Mister Monkey is so fresh and new it’s almost giddy, almost impudent with originality. Tender and artful, Prose’s 15th novel is a sophisticated satire, a gently spiritual celebration of life, a dark and thoroughly grim depiction of despair, a screwball comedy, a screwball tragedy.” Cathleen Schine reviews Francine Prose’s newest novel, Mister Monkey, over at The New York Times.
At the Los Angeles Times Magazine, the answer to a bad boyfriend is to read a few good novels. Does The Talented Mr. Ripley remind you of your lover?
“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?