“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.
Back in March, I pointed readers to an interview with Minae Mizumura, whose recent book, The Fall of Language in the Age of English, makes a case against the dominance of the English language in the modern age. Now, at Full-Stop, Sho Spaeth reviews the book. Sample quote: “She has a curious blindness to what may be her greatest offense of all to the prevailing attitude of our age: a naive rejection of the idea that novels, and their novelists, exist merely to entertain.”
Here at The Millions, we know the importance of a book’s cover (for evidence see here, here, here and here), so Margaret Sullivan‘s new project, Jane Austen Cover to Cover, has our attention. A sample of covers for Emma, available on The Paris Review‘s blog, “provides a fascinating glimpse into a variety of publishing cultures, and it reminds that even our classics are mutable, pitched to appeal to any number of sensibilities, their literary status in constant flux per the dictates of the market.”
You may not have known that Thomas Jefferson – author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. President, founder of the University of Virginia – also found time to amass the largest contemporary collection of books in North America. For sixteen years, The Library of Congress has been trying to track down copies of the final 250 listed in Jefferson’s collection.