Among the better tidbits from Gary Shteyngart’s diary of his book tour for Little Failure is the fact that he’s apparently had fellow Russian immigrants ask him to sign books for “a failed paralegal” and “a worse failure than even you.” If, after reading that, you’d like another dose of Shteyngart, you could do worse than his Year in Reading entry.
“Romance heroines hold jobs. They teach, farm, practice law, work independently as private detectives, or they are involved in the arts, in dance, in theater. They are mothers, ex-wives, Marines. They take up causes and they always want something ‘more’ from their lives—and we aren’t just talking about a partner. In today’s romance, the relationship is part of—and often, a catalyst for—a woman’s journey, not her destination.” On the value of romance fiction.
Last semester, at UC Riverside, the novelist Susan Straight began the class “Mixed-Race Literature and the American Experience” with a simple question: “How many of you are often asked, What are you?” In an essay about the class, she relates what they learned, which includes the observation that hair is weirdly important in America. (Related: The Millions published an essay by Straight on Toni Morrison’s Sula.)
“Much has been made of the seemingly prophetic nature of Verne’s lunar stories: elements such as the distance and time to reach the moon, and even the launch and landing sites for the mission fall very closely to what actually happened during NASA’s Apollo program.” On the prophetic and historical power of Jules Verne‘s science fiction novels, including the works that later inspired the space program.
“Renowned author Dan Brown got out of his luxurious four-poster bed in his expensive $10 million house and paced the bedroom, using the feet located at the ends of his two legs to propel him forwards.”
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, David Shapiro remarks on the current popularity of the marathon reading, or “a format of communal public performance that has more in common with the filibuster than the conventional literary reading.” Previously, Jeff Price wrote a piece on our site concerning the particular camaraderie that arises among participants and audience members during marathon readings. (As a bonus: I share a David Foster Wallace anecdote in the comments for that piece.)
The Morning News has just launched a series on contemporary Russian literature. For this week’s installment Anna Starobinets provides an exerpt of her debut manuscript, An Awkward Age, and chats about her writing with Elizabeth Kiem. In the New Yorker, Sally McGrane profiles Boris Akunin, Russian writer of potboilers and political dissident.