Norman Rockwell was an unhappy and enervated man who became iconic by painting scenes of happy, energetic people. He developed a style that became synonymous with idyllic visions of America. At Page-Turner, Lee Siegel reads Deborah Solmon's American Mirror, a new biography of Rockwell that acknowledges the painter’s contradictions without “mocking or scolding” him for the gulf between his life and his art.
"All over the country research libraries are canceling subscriptions to academic journals," notes Robert Darnton, "because they are caught between decreasing budgets and increasing costs. The logic of the bottom line is inescapable, but there is a higher logic that deserves consideration—namely, that the public should have access to knowledge produced with public funds."
“Salinger’s Holden Caulfield made a distinction between writers you would like to call on the phone and those you wouldn’t care to talk to at all. Teju Cole belongs to the former group.” Year in Reading alum Aleksandar Hemon interviews Teju Cole. If you can’t get enough of Cole, we interviewed him, too.
When Damien Searls first read W.G. Sebald, he thought the German writer was uniquely good at factoring historical circumstance into his thinking. Sebald's unyielding reminders of the horrors of the past were a nice corrective to the feel-good pablums of the ‘90s. But reading Sebald now, Searls thinks something has changed. What happened? The world went online. (Related: Greg Walklin on Sebald’s A Place in the Country.)
If you're eagerly anticipating the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, be prepared to wait until 2034. You can blame the internet for the delay, which has made research easier but also leads to information overload. There are so many new words that the dictionary would be 40 volumes if it ever makes it to print, but expect it to be only online instead. For more on the new OED, read a profile of new editor Michael Proffitt.
"You’d be hard-pressed to find a book that was at once so bold in style and ambitious in structure and so much fun to read." The Guardian asks indie publishers about the books that made their year, including Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue (whose own Year in Reading you can find here).