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.
“You have turned to stone. A hairline crack runs along your entire length from crown to toe. Your feet have turned to liquid, and you are melting onto the kitchen floor.” Are you living in an Elena Ferrante novel? Li Sian Goh at The Toast has compiled a helpful list of ways to tell whether or not you might be a character in Ferrante’s final Neapolitan novel, The Story of the Lost Child.
With the season five premiere of Mad Men fast approaching, now's as good a time as any to catch up on the intimate commingling of its main characters. Fortunately, the folks at Wired have organized the whole thing into a neat "Illustrated Guide to Mad Men Bed-Hopping."
Looking for a way to spice up your short story? Add a ghost. "This is going to sound strange, but what your story really needs is a ghost," Lorrie Moore said in an interview with The New York Times. She discussed her new professorship at Vanderbilt and her new short story collection, Bark, which, yes, does contain a ghost story.
"Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat. / My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling." Last week, Ocean Vuong published his newest collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds. This week, it seems to be all anyone can talk about (because it's fantastic). Here's a piece from The New Yorker on Vuong and his designs for the English language.
“What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed?” The New York Times tackles the question of why, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still so popular. (One finding: the author“used intensifying words — like very, much, so — at a higher rate than other writers.") See also: our interview with Curtis Sittenfeld, whose most-recent novel Eligible is the ultimate literary tribute, an adaptation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
New this week: Island of the Mad by Laurie Sheck; Moshi-Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto; One Man's Dark by Maurice Manning; Kill the Next One by Federico Axat; and Loveland by Graham Norton. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.
VQR has published an essay by Chris Fischbach of Coffee House Press that provides an overview of some of the innovative small presses at work today. Fischbach specifically mentions Tin House, Melville House and Two Dollar Radio as "nimble" publishing houses that "can try things big publishers might not find worthwhile or consistent with the aims of a traditional publishing program," such as producing micro-budget films or illustrated versions of classic works of literature.