“There is a unity to all of Robinson’s work, and this is part of what makes her so great. Her writing expresses a consistent and compelling vision of the world—a vision that sees the real as revelatory, the everyday as wondrous, Spokane as leading to Galilee.” Anthony Domestico profiles Marilynne Robinson and her new novel Lila, which we’ve mentioned here and here and here, for Commonweal.
"Skipping or skimming parts of a narrative should not only be expected but encouraged, particularly if an author is writing without clarity or purpose or showing off. Life’s too short to slog through some smarty-pants attempt to demonstrate a mastery of mechanical engineering or botany." Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes face off for The New York Times Bookends column about whether there are right and wrong ways to read a book.
In a big week for new releases, we have Lev Grossman's The Magician King, the sequel to his blockbuster debut The Magicians; Nicholson Baker's House of Holes, reviewed here today; another new Geoff Dyer book, The Missing of the Somme; DBC Pierre's Lights Out in Wonderland; and Kevin Wilson's debut novel The Family Fang (which one blurber calls The Royal Tenenbaums meets Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf). Four of the five books above, incidentally, were featured in our big second-half preview. And out in a paperback this week are a pair of award winners: Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies and David Grossman's To the End of the Land.
On a more optimistic note, New Directions, New York City's inestimable and long struggling (but "long dazzling!") publishing house, will be throwing itself a 75th birthday party on Thursday, October 27. (They just redesigned their website and colophon, too.)
It’s a common saying among actors that the script does most of the work. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible for a great writer to make art out of a bad story? At The Kenyon Review’s blog, Amit Majmudar says it is, using Shakespeare as proof. Related: five experts on the Bard’s greatest plays.