Penelope Fitzgerald has been getting a lot of attention lately, largely due to Hermione Lee‘s newest biography. In an article for the Paris Review, Bridget Read considers the impact a better understanding of Fitzgerald’s life could have on her modern reputation, and argues that “it is not extraordinary that she became a prize-winning novelist, though you may have heard otherwise. … It is vital to emphasize that Fitzgerald’s novels were not achieved in spite of her domestic life; they were borne directly out of it. Her work is radical in that it suggests that, in fact, a feminine experience, a liminal experience, might be better equipped than a male one to address the contradictions of human existence taken up by the greatest literature.”
Legendary jazz musician and composer Cal Massey receded from active performance in the 1950s in order to concentrate on composition. His works went on to be recorded by John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and many other greats. To honor his indelible mark on jazz music and African-American culture, Fred Ho and Ben Barson will present a series of concerts in Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant. Barson also wrote a lengthy introduction to Massey’s life and legacy.
Nabokov once described himself “as American as April in Arizona,” which is an odd thing to call yourself when you’re a lepidopterist Russian expat. In Nabokov in America, Robert Roper explores why Nabokov felt he was so American, and how his journey to that identity influenced his writing of Lolita. At The Literary Review, Ian Sansom reviews Roper’s book.
Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso writes about motherhood, writing, and the disintegration of the self in a moving essay for Harper’s. As she puts it, “I want to read books that were written in desperation, by people who are disturbed and overtaxed, who balance on the extreme edge of experience. I want to read books by people who are acutely aware that death is coming and that abiding love is our last resort.” Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.
Want to become a successful writer? Get adopted by Stephen King. With five fiction writers to their name — Stephen, Tabitha King, Joe Hill, Owen King, and his wife, Kelly Braffet — the Kings have turned writing into a family business, according to The New York Times Magazine profile on the clan. Pair with: the accompanying article on “Easter eggs” found in the family’s fiction.
“It is early August. A black man is shot by a white policeman. And the effect on the community is of “a lit match in a tin of gasoline.” No, this is not Ferguson, MO.” Laila Lalami reports for NPR on rereading James Baldwin‘s Notes of a Native Son in the context of Ferguson. Pair with Teju Cole‘s essay in The New Yorker about rereading Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village.”
First there was Keith Richards’s autobiography, Life. Now he is writing a children’s book, complete with illustrations by his daughter. Gus & Me tells the story of Richards’s bond with his grandfather, which is slightly more normal than snorting his dad’s ashes.