“I learned through imitation, but it was only when I followed—or found—my own voice that I was able to derive a different kind of inspiration from reading fiction, something subtler and more expansive. Today, when I reach a wall in my own work, I turn to authors I love to remind myself what is possible: that sentence, that structure, that daring twist of plot.” Chloe Benjamin, who just yesterday published a piece on choosing book titles for The Millions, writes about the dangers and rewards of reading while writing for Poets and Writers’ Recommends series.
New releases this week include the much-hyped The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I. Also out in nonfiction is President Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), as reviewed by the New York Times, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and, for hip-hop fans, Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded.
Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous releases may rival Tupac’s in quantity. Indeed, the author “sustains an interest in Latin American literature all by himself,” writes Robert Birnbaum. But what if you want to broaden your survey of Latin and South American literature? Well, luckily, Birnbaum’s got some recommendations for you.
Darryl Campbell has had enough of the clichés abundant in book reviews so he’s devised some alternatives. “If fine artists aren’t your thing,” Campbell writes, “then maybe American presidents might be a better comparison: ‘Taft-like excess,’ ‘Cleveland-esque genre-bending’ or ‘Clintonian eroticism’.”
How The Daily Show may have an advantage over mainstream news, by virtue of its refusual to take “View from Nowhere.” Conor Friedersdorf makes the compelling case that comedy writers, with their eyes rooting out the absurd in the world, can put give the news some much needed perspective.
“Four years after first announcing the decision to open the prize to Americans, the Booker is virtually indistinguishable from its competitors. It is exactly what many feared it would become: corporate and daft.” Alex Shephard writing for The New Republic about why the Man Booker Prize isn’t interesting anymore. Still, should you want to know who’s shortlisted this year, here’s our roundup.
No surprise here — Elena Ferrante fever continues to sweep the literary world. Last week, an Italian historian was forced to deny claims that she was actually the Neapolitan novelist. Now, The Guardian takes a look at the unique history of pseudonyms and posits whether Ferrante’s mystery might outlast some famous historical masqueraders. For the unacquainted, here’s a quick piece on reading Italy through Ferrante’s work.