Recent Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai writes about the difference between publishing your first book and your second book for Ploughshares. Let’s just say it’s the difference between champagne and “all the whiskey.” Pair with Zhanna Slor‘s Millions interview with Makkai in which they discuss that second book, The Hundred-Year House.
New releases this week include The Signature of All Things by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, which you can learn more about in Steve Almond’s review for the Times. Also out: The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna; The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble; Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal; The Night Guest by Fiona MacFarlane; The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson; Personae by Hall of Famer Sergio de la Pava; and The Karl Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen.
I am very sad to report that William Gay, whom we featured in our “Post-40 Bloomers” series last fall, died on Friday, at the age of 68. From Clarksville Online: “At first, I would send a story to the New Yorker and when it came back, I’d send it to The Atlantic, or Harper’s or Esquire. I didn’t know about the college literary magazines but when I found out about them, I started getting published. After I finally got published in the Georgia Review, I got a call from the editor at The Atlantic. He asked why I wasn’t sending them something because they’d like to publish my work. I told him I’d been sending things for years. He said they never got to his desk. I had to wonder what kind of operation they were running.” Look for his final novel The Lost Country, hopefully coming soon.
There’s an old story that states that Marcel Proust met James Joyce for five unremarkable minutes at a dinner party. Artistically significant though it may have been, it had less geopolitical significance than another famous meeting a hundred years earlier, in which Napoleon went out of his way to pay a visit to Goethe. As a new biography of the French emperor details, Napoleon couldn’t understand why Goethe admired Shakespeare.