“From this bleak backdrop unspools West Of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s sparkling and frequently delightful fictionalized take on those years. It’s a setting that’s near impossible for culture buffs to resist; for a certain subset of nerd, this is a sort of literary Avengers, collecting Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker alongside O’Nan’s delicate and sensitive portrayals of Fitzgerald and wife Zelda, to say nothing of Humphrey Bogart and a cameo by Katharine Hepburn, eating soup.”
In the sixties, when he was a student at Cambridge, Stephen Greenblatt came across a book of Persian art. The book inspired a lifelong interest in the region, which in part explains why, after the University of Tehran invited him to give the keynote address at the first annual Iranian Shakespeare Congress, he packed his bags and headed over to the Middle East. In The New York Review of Books, the Harvard professor and Swerve author writes about his experience.
“The Goldfinch is a grand nineteenth-century novel in that it is an 800-page chronicle of capitalism, a paean to the ways in which the world turns on the questions of who can or can’t pay for what, and how these abilities and inabilities mold us over time. Like the life events and relationships it depicts, it purports to be about love but is actually about money. This portrayal of twentieth century North American society is accurate, but also, just as in life, both exhausting and demoralizing.” On Donna Tartt’s latest novel. (You could also read Adam Dalva’s take on the book.)
2011 is the year of television’s oral history. On the heels of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, published last May and reviewed by n+1 here, you can now check out I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. You can whet your appetite with an excerpt here. If television’s not your thing, you can also check out New York Magazine‘s oral history of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and of the founding of Ms. magazine.