When you’re trying to keep up with the best new writers out there, it’s easy to forget the debt we owe to the classics. So let’s go back to the beginning: Why Homer Matters, a new book by Adam Nicholson on the father of all poets, explores the question of who Homer was, and whether or not he was even one person. You could also read Frank Kovarik on the parallels between The Odyssey and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
“I think writing about the real world, as we live in it today, is very difficult; many writers try to escape it. But then what books will be the classics from our generation? Which of them will be the commentaries on our lot?” William Ruof argues that studying nonfiction may make the best fiction writers in a piece for The State Press.
New this week: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood; The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters; My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner; Wallflowers by Eliza Robertson; On Bittersweet Place by Ronna Wineberg; Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce; In the Red by Elena Mauli Shapiro; and Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
William Tyndale, one of the leading figures in the Protestant reform, was executed in 1536 for his translation of the Bible into English. Over at Asymptote Journal, Josh Billings considers the meaning of Tyndale’s death. As he explains it, “It happened in an era when translation was taken extremely seriously, not just because it allowed ordinary people to read the Bible in their own languages, but because it implied those languages were as capable of containing God’s Word as Latin, Greek or Hebrew.”
The true story of the Whaleship Essex – which was deftly recounted in Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book In the Heart of the Sea – will soon be adapted into a 90-minute documentary for the BBC. As avid whale watchers already know, the plight of the Essex is what ultimately inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. You can get an overview of the disaster at Melville House’s blog, Moby Lives. (How appropriate!)