“Books: As with food and clothing, they’re a commodity that elicits status anxiety for many people, particularly the insecure. And wherever there is status anxiety, there are potential minefields. We need to tread with the lightness of meringue.” Henry Alford explains the etiquette of books for The New York Times.
“Maybe I [felt] a shift in responsibility when I had kids. I wanted the work I was doing, whatever it was, to be something that could be meaningful to them one day. That’s where the germ of the memoir came from. I thought that perhaps writing about my parents and where I came from would one day be helpful for my kids.” For Guernica, Christopher Kondrich interviews Tracy K. Smith about writing a memoir, the presence of David Bowie in her Life on Mars, and her reverence for the cosmic. Also check out Sophia Nguyen’s Millions review of Smith’s memoir, Ordinary Light.
Recommended Reading/Listening: Maia Evrona’s translation and recitation of a poem by Abraham Sutzkever, who has been called one of the primary poets of the Holocaust. Gabriel Brownstein’s essay for The Millions on what it means to be a “Jewish writer” is a good complementary piece.
Julie Delphy‘s second film as writer/director/actress is released in Europe this month. The subject is 16th century Hungarian/Transylvanian countess Erzsébet Bàthory, known for murdering young girls to bathe in their blood and considered by some the first female serial killer. Judging from the trailer, Delphy’s film doesn’t appear to equal earlier visions of the Bloody Countess (French Surrealist Valentine Penrose‘s hallucinatory biography, for example, or Terry Gilliam‘s Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci) in The Brothers Grimm).
New this week is a debut collection of loosely linked stories that’s been getting some attention. Military families are the common theme in Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men Are Gone. Another newly released debut is Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters about a Shakespeare scholar’s three daughters, all named after characters from the Bard’s plays. Also new this week, a tome dedicated to the “hot” condiment of the moment, The Sriracha Cookbook.