In an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Peter Birkenhead goes back to Nabokov‘s Speak, Memory and considers “the way our memories tell themselves to us: in hints, collisions, and rushes, overlapping, upside down, out of order.” Pair with our own Garth Risk Hallberg‘s piece on reading Ada, or Ardor.
Despite recently winning the Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson writes a list of his favorite novels about failure for the WSJ: "This category is, of necessity, a crowded one. Novelists are drawn to failure. Those who prosper, or expect to prosper, in the world as it is have no need to re-imagine it."
“I was also deeply protective of my father, who at the time of my reading was struggling with illness and other demons. Yet I saw painfully how he could also be a figure of fun. It dawned on me that Cal, supposedly a great friend, might be mocking him—even just by writing about his mockery by others. I registered the first stirrings of an uncertain dislike." Diantha Parker considers her father's long friendship with Robert Lowell, immortalized in Lowell's poem "To Frank Parker."
Half a century ago, it would have been inconceivable to think that one day, the clack of typewriter keys would disappear from daily life. The rise of the personal computer, in Sadie Stein’s words, turned an everpresent sound into a “living anachronism.” She reflects on the value of the typewriter in a blog post for The Paris Review Daily. (It might also be a good time to read our own Bill Morris on typewriters and pen pals.)
"Whatever the facts of her life – whether she turned out to be an ancient man living in the Icelandic interior or a woman waiting tables at a Texan diner – Ferrante writes in an autobiographical mode. That is fuel for the truthers, a sort of literary ankle-flashing. But it is also good cover for another motive: a very contemporary form of envy of another’s autonomous space and their creativity, a rage that while they give us their work, they will not also give us their person." On a new collection of Elena Ferrante's letters, interviews and short pieces.
"The French government classifies books as an 'essential good,' along with electricity, bread and water." And who could blame them?