Out this week: The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann; Uncle Janice by Matt Burgess; The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton; Driving the King by Ravi Howard; Against the Country by Ben Metcalf; God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger; A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan; Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova; and Almost Famous Women by Year in Reading alum Megan Mayhew Bergman. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
It’s a question that puzzles writers of all stripes: why is so much academic writing so terrible? It’s an issue that’s been a lifelong head-scratcher for the linguist Steven Pinker, who set out to answer the question once and for all. His verdict? It has to do with the meaning of “literary style.”
“When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience. The cause of this I shall endeavour to investigate further.” David Shields quotes Edmund Burke in an interview about his new book War Is Beautiful.
“Over the years, Gross has done some 13,000 interviews, and the sheer range of people she has spoken to, coupled with her intelligence and empathy, has given her the status of national interviewer. Think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor.” Terry Gross sits down with The New York Times Magazine in honor of her 40th anniversary hosting Fresh Air.
This week, Richard Ford published his first novel in a while to feature Frank Bascombe, the protagonist of his Pulitzer-winning book The Sportswriter. At Salon, our own Lydia Kiesling posits a through-line from Bascombe to a certain TV gangster, arguing that The Sopranos shares its view of manhood with Ford’s novels. You could also read our own Michael Bourne on Ford’s 2012 book, Canada.
Point: Dan Chaon believes younger writers should read more contemporary writing before attempting to be published themselves. Counterpoint: J. Robert Lennon believes most contemporary writing is a waste of would-be writers’ precious time. TL;DR Version: Nathan Elwood notes that if writers “want to change the face of literary fiction … [they should] at least know what it looks like.”
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins was more than just a Dr. Seuss book but a reality for the writer. Seuss was as fond of hats as he was rhyming and now part of his chapeau collection will be touring the U.S. 26 of his hats will stop in Atlanta, New Orleans, South Lake Tahoe, Tampa, Midlothian, and Northampton. For more Seuss, read our essay on censorship of The Lorax.