Out this week: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews; The Letters of TS Eliot: Volume 5; Rocket and Lightship by Adam Kirsch; The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum; and a single-volume edition of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
“Reading fiction is one of my true loves, but essays help me to understand things about the world, the writer, and if they’re really great, myself.” Electric Literature‘s Jason Diamond argues 2014 was “The Year of the Essay,” and when we think over the collections published this year – The Empathy Exams, The Unspeakable and Loitering, among others – it’s hard to disagree.
Shakespeare was an insult master, as were Churchill, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and… Cézanne? Apparently so. In The Irish Times, Colm Tóibín reads through the painter’s letters, one of which includes a gripe that “Pissarro is an old fool [and] Monet is a wily bird.” (You could also read Claire Cameron’s Millions review of Tóibín’s latest novel.)
In an interview with Jonathan Lethem, the NBCC’s Jane Ciabaratti offers, inter alia, a sympathetic reading of Chronic City; both have more affection than Kakutani did for what Lethem calls “the claptrap contraption plot I invented.” Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, in a flash of inspiration, assigns the book to the estimable Alexander Theroux – the only non-Latin writer who can credibly use the word “prosopographical” in a review. (But, attn editor: “not a jot” twice? in subsequent paragraphs?) A marathon bi-borough reading of the entire novel continues tonight at McNally Jackson.
Up until 1999, Italian college students were required to write longform theses, which explains why Umberto Eco felt the need to write a guide to completing one. Eco being Eco, however, the guide went on to become a classic with many applications. At Page-Turner, Hua Hsu explains why the author’s writing manual is also a guide to life. You could also read Hillary Kelly on Eco’s Confessions of a Young Novelist.