“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.
"The real world is massive and chaotic beyond the scope of any story, but the novel has always been the storytelling medium that could come closest to capturing it. And the novels that dared to really try – from Hugo to Tolstoy – are often the ones that have endured." That's not to say, of course, that bigger is always better, and in an article for The Guardian Damien Walter argues against the current glut of epic, serialized fantasy novels taking their cues from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. As Walter puts it, "There are great fantasy short stories, novellas and single novels that deserve much wider audiences, but are sidelined by the industry’s unhealthy fixation with the serial format. It’s time for the fantasy genre to tell some new – shorter – stories."
Every so often, a piece comes along that rends the fragile mind, employing a devil’s portion of mundane details to lay bare the inescapable futility of all human endeavor. This is the only rational way to describe this piece at The Awl, which takes the form of a conversation between Karl Ove Knausgaard and True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto.
Nemesis, the latest from Philip Roth is now out. Other new fiction this week includes Nicole Krauss' Great House and Myla Goldberg's The False Friend. In non-fiction, Steven Johnson takes on a thought-provoking topic with Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Also new are Ron Chernow's massive biography of George Washington and a new book from Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life.
"[I]n the days following the election, one thing became clear: many librarians are anxious about the future." From Carla Hayden to copyright reform, Publisher's Weekly has the top 10 library stories of 2016. Also recommended: a piece by Daniel Penev from our own pages earlier this year, about how libraries matter now more than ever.
“None of us made love, we had only reproaches for one another. I hated that dependency and yet I couldn’t live without it.” This short piece by Mercè Rodoreda from the new issue of Harper’s Magazine is brutal and surprising. The piece is an excerpt from Rodoreda’s War, So Much War, out later this month.