In 1913, four years before the Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II made the now-baffling claim that a writer named Teffi was the only major Russian writer. At the time, however, his endorsement made sense, because everybody in Russia, from royalty on down, read Teffi’s work and “delighted” in it. Until the revolution, at which point she was consigned to oblivion. William Grimes writes about a new collection of her stories.
What happens when a grown woman wears a ton of Axe body spray? The question is nightmare fuel, but Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick -- in what can only be described as a heroic act of journalism -- doused herself in America’s most notorious fragrance for a week to see how it felt.
Ben Lerner, whose 10:04 has been reviewed in Bookforum and the New York Times, made an appearance on The New Directions blog to recommend four books of poetry that have at one point or another graced his nightstand. (No word on how he winnows down his list of books to be stacked on said nightstand, but our own Sonya Chung can offer advice.)
It is well known that Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson had one of the more visible falling outs in literary history over the former’s English-language Eugene Onegin translation, and indeed the history of that relationship’s souring is fascinating. But even still, it’s extremely interesting to read Nabokov’s nine-page “Reply” to Wilson’s “adverse criticism.” If nothing else, one has to wonder what Wilson was thinking when he brought a knife to a gun fight.
Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.
Pietru Caxaro composed “Il Cantilena” in the late 15th century, and his poem is widely considered to be the oldest known literary text in the Maltese language. Recently conservator Theresa Zammit Lupi worked to restore the original manuscript’s paper, binding and cover in order to “bring new life” to the historic work. You can read an approximate English translation of the poem courtesy of Wikipedia.