“It’s not clear whether he really went mad or not, but he was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics—an admirably blunt name, no?”— Frank Key writes about Christopher Smart, “an intimate of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Henry Fielding” and an excellent cat poet, for the Public Domain Review.
“Behind the collective feast and public ritual lies a personal dimension: the holiday as each of us has lived it, laughed about it, imagined it or reinvented it.” For their “My Thanksgiving” feature, The New York Times asked nine writers — including Parul Sehgal, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Emma Cline — how they celebrate the holiday. Pair with Nguyen’s 2015 Year in Reading.
Out this week: Everything Love Is by Claire King; They Are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill; The Moravian Night by Peter Handke; All Joe Knight by Kevin Morris; Of All That Ends by Günter Grass; and A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.
What is deracination, and why is it key to understanding American fiction? In her novel Housekeeping, Pulitzer laureate Marilynne Robinson defines it as “the free appreciation of whatever comes under one’s eye,” inspired by the Western sentiment of “feeling no tie of particularity to any single past or history.” In the Boston Review, Jess Row states that deracination is “a long-lived and nearly universal trope in white American literature,” claiming it represents “an American ideal: not to strip from the roots, but to de-race oneself.”
For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean’s about his life, his escape, and literature.