There are all kinds of arguments for reading the canon (Italo Calvino‘s come to mind) but why should we spend time reading untested contemporary authors? Tim Parks tackles this question, with a little help from Virginia Woolf, for The New York Review of Book‘s blog, and his argument pairs well with Guy Patrick Cunningham‘s Millions essay on reading the classics.
“On the level of narrative possibility, I was really drawn to the sense of aloneness that rose from so many of these images—the terrifying possibility of being the last person left on earth, or even the last person left in a neighborhood, a swamp, a freeway. That stark haunting irony of living in a world of excess that has eventually collapsed on itself, emptied out.” Guernica interviews Leslie Jamison and Ryan Spencer for their new collaboration, Such Mean Estate.
“We live in the age of opinion — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate.” The New York Times approached six accomplished critics, Stephen Burns, Katie Roiphe, Pankaj Mishra, Adam Kirsch, Sam Anderson, and Elif Batuman to explain, in the spirit of Alfred Kazin, “what it is they do, why they do it and why it matters.”
Just got a new e-reader for Christmas but afraid to overspend too easily? Many public domain books are classics, ones that you might want to revisit from school or others that you feel guilty for not having read. Here is a list of 10 free books. Or, if you’re more interested in paying for newer titles, you can check out our cheat sheet of the favorites of Millions readers and places to find more.
In literature and film, there are epic heroes, Campbellian heroes, romantic heroes and tragic heroes. Less well-known is the Byronic hero, whose personality is rakish, extravagant and otherwise similar to Lord Byron. At the Ploughshares blog, a literary blueprint of the archetype. You could also read Jennifer Egan on Byron’s Don Juan.
New Yorkers: the Brooklyn Book Festival kicks off tomorrow evening, and you can get things started off right with this party hosted by Tumblr, Electric Literature, The LA Review of Books, and The New Inquiry. The following night, however, is when you should carve out some time to see The Greatest 3-Minute Book Stories — which will feature readings by Maris Kreizman (Slaughterhouse 90210), Alexander Chee (Edinburgh), Dan Wilbur (Better Book Titles), Christopher Beha (On Making Sentences Do Something), and yours truly (these Curiosities) among others.