“It has been said of the Beatles that there is not a clunker of a song in their oeuvre because they simply never let the bad stuff get released. The same might be said of Nabokov—for ‘Camera Obscura’ shows that he was indeed capable of writing a second-rate novel. (He knew it, and rewrote it.)” John Colapinto looks at Nabokov‘s retranslation of Laughter in the Dark for The New Yorker.
Need some inspiration? These quotes from Joan Didion are sure to make your day. Picked by noted Ayn Rand scholar Mallory Ortberg, they include such gems as “I’m from Sacramento, but it’s honestly not a big deal” and “California doesn’t remind me of the apocalypse at all.”
Byliner has published two never-before-seen stories by the late Elmore Leonard. The first story, “The Trespassers,” follows a pair of hunters, while the second focuses on a whiskey-swilling priest who gets involved in a showdown in the Wild West. (You should also read our own Bill Morris on the qualities that made Leonard a special writer.)
"It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a great artist creative" but The Atlantic makes a strong attempt and cites the story behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as an example of what can happen "when experience, openness, and the right neurology come together."
Los Angeles Review of Books managing editor Evan Kindley reviews Michael Szalay’s Hip Figures: A Literary History of the Democratic Party, and says it “reminds us of a time, not long ago, when literary intellectuals set great store by mainstream political parties, and vice versa.”
Jonathan Franzen knows a lot about birds. The novelist competed on Jeopardy's "Power Players Week" alongside Chuck Todd and S.E. Cupp as part of a variation on the Celebrity Jeopardy theme. Franzen flubbed a few questions about Shakespeare which, ironically, served to help dispel some of the "old curmudgeon" reputation that has followed him for years. This piece from The Millions on the case for non-Ikea writing in the Age of Franzen might interest you.