What accounts for the incredible popularity of Chicken Soup for the Soul? The inspirational book series has continually sold well since the first volume was published in 1993. At Slate, Katy Waldman investigates its appeal.
If you didn’t like Elif Batuman‘s gut-punch to MFA writing (“Get A Real Degree”) in this issue of the London Review of Books, might I suggest Jenny Diski’s cudgeling of self-help lit in the LRB’s Diary essay?
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
Ratik Asokan reviews Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya, a story about dealing with the violence that permeates El Salvador’s culture. “Fiction, unlike journalism, has allowed Moya to express the frustration and existential terror of living in a society thoroughly permeated by violence.” Pair with our reviews of Moya’s Tyrant Memory and The Dream of My Return.