“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.
The premier English-language translator of modern Chinese fiction, Howard Goldblatt, says flatly that Western audiences don’t read Chinese books. However, with last year’s Nobel Prize win for Mo Yan (and the rave review his novel Pow! received in the Times), Goldblatt and other scholars are hoping that could change.
This is an interview in which five-year-old Desmond and eight-year-old Everett ask some hard-hitting questions of M. Quint regarding her new book The Defiant, and in which Jonathan Lethem makes a brief cameo to helpfully facilitate the discussion–do you need any more reason to read this piece? Here’s a quick hit from C. Max Magee, creator of The Millions, on giving the classics to kids.
Don’t Cry author Mary Gaitskill reviews Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful thriller, Gone Girl, for the pages of Bookforum. What she finds is that the book isn’t really frightening because of its plot per se, but rather because its two main characters “do not resemble actual people so much as grotesquely smiling masks driven by forces of extreme artifice, and it’s exactly that extreme artificial quality that’s frightening to the point of sickening.” For what it’s worth, Edan Lepucki, Michael Bourne, Ed Park, Janet Potter, and Jennifer duBois each named Flynn’s book in their most recent Year in Reading pieces.
Vanity Fair remembers Christopher Hitchens, a favorite of ours who was always fun to root for, and who, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, died last night. Andrew Sullivan remembers an email exchange from happier times. Hitchens’ ebook from this year, The Enemy, is in our Hall of Fame, and we reviewed his memoir, Hitch-22, last year.