A couple years ago, Robert Birnbaum interviewed Edith Pearlman for The Millions, asking why the highly regarded short story writer didn’t hit it big until recently. Now, in the Times, Laura van den Berg reads Pearlman’s book Honeydew, in a piece that nicely complements Steve Almond’s profile of the author. FYI, Laura van den Berg has written for us.
Peter Mendelsund writes for the Paris Review about how we see, or think we see, fictional characters. “Characters are ciphers. … We are ever reviewing and reconsidering our mental portraits of characters in novels: amending them, backtracking to check on them, updating them when new information arises.”
At The New Yorker, Sarah Miller humorously learns why only positive book reviews might be a bad thing. “If St. Petersburg is the Little Engine That Could of city names, then the main character, Raskolnikov, is the Little Engine That Could of elderly pawnbroker murderers,” she writes in her review of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Out this week: Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen; The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark; Second Life by S.J. Watson; The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall; Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos; The Household Spirit by Tod Wodicka; Valley Fever by Katherine Taylor; and Rise by Karen Campbell. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2015 Book Preview.
“I hope they also love that experience of surprise and delight and really engaging stories in the fiction sense, but also in the writers at work sense and in the poetic sense.” A Vanity Fair interview with Emily Nemens, The Paris Review’s new editor. And here’s a list of 20 reasons you should absolutely be reading literary magazines.
Lord Byron is perhaps our most prominent example of an extravagant writer in a bygone age. There’s a reason his antics earned him a popular adjective. However, he’s not the only writer from long ago to live large, as made clear in this New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert — inspired by the release of two new biographies — that deals with the up-and-down life and reputation of Seneca. Sample quote: “Seneca’s fortune made possible a life style that was lavish by Roman or, for that matter, Hollywood standards.”