George Saunders is taking up residence at the Powell’s Blog this week as he embarks on a book tour promoting his latest (released today), The Braindead Megaphone. To my knowledge, it is Saunders’ first foray into blogging, a format we discussed nearly two years ago (scroll down). His concern: “I worry about how much I would have to pay myself to keep my blog supplied with content. My fear is that, knowing I was working for myself, I would start cheating myself, only submitting my worst pieces, then get into a labor dispute with myself and never speak to me again.” Hopefully, his fears aren’t realized.A new issue of Scott Esposito’s terrific Quarterly Conversation has arrived. It features, among several notable contributors, Garth, who “sorts out literary feuds, dissects James Wood’s essay against Don DeLillo’s 832-page opus Underworld, and argues that this book actually evolves the novel forward.”Emdashes has the schedule for this year’s New Yorker Festival. It looks fantastic as usual. I should really go sometime.
For everyone who harbors a deep and mildly-embarrassed love for GIFs in the significant, non-linguistic part of their brains that finds repeated facial expressions far more memorable than words: Ploughshares’ series on classic novels (1984, The Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, The Hobbit) will have you laughing and building your cocktail-party knowledge all at once.
“A funny thing happened when Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize last Tuesday… a smattering of people who were not even related to Mr. Jacobson stood and cheered.” A profile of the new Booker winner and an exploration of his winning book, The Finkler Question, in the New York Times.
What do Talking Heads, The Smiths, Judas Priest, and Blondie have in common? They’re all featured in the playlist Picador made to accompany the paperback release of Jeffrey Eugenides’s latest novel, The Marriage Plot. The Spotify list is chock full of songs “Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell might have been listening to in the early 1980s.” You can read Eugenides’s take on the book’s genesis over here, too.
It’s common for descriptions of James Joyce’s Dubliners to label its stories portraits of Irish life. If you’d like to look at actual portraits of Irish life in 1904, however, you could do a lot worse than this series of old photos of Dublin, available online courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute.
This past Wednesday Tracy K. Smith officially began her term as the new U.S. Poet Laureate. After adding her name to the guest book traditionally signed by poet laureates upon the start of their one year term, she read aloud from previously published poetry collections and introduced new work. Ron Charles from the Washington Post reports “[a]mong her most powerful new pieces were ‘found poems’ constructed from archival letters that African American veterans sent to President Lincoln asking for pensions they were owed.” Smith is the first poet laureate appointed by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Stay tuned for her upcoming efforts to engage rural communities in poetry discussions.