Nowadays, Lord of the Flies is a byword for savagery, a book that illustrates more potently than any other just how low it’s possible for humanity to sink. In The Guardian, Robert McCrum ties the book’s conception to the second World War, arguing that its view of the world was “unimaginable” without Nazi Europe.
Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman's piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it's worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
Administrators at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts "have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital." (Thanks to Millions reader Laurie who asks, "So what happens when the power goes out?")
Out this week: The Burning Girl by Claire Messud; The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang; My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent; To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann; and All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
"I used to run cross country in high school and it was like, I knew if I put in a certain kind of training, it was going to make me faster. If X, then Y. But with writing, it’s like, if X, if I do this thing that’s necessary, which is giving myself the space and time, then what? It’s sort of a question mark. You have no idea. You work so hard to offer yourself up to the space of the unknown." Leslie Jamison (and Angela Flournoy and Katherine Towler) on being alone and setting aside the time to write.
"Whatever the facts of her life – whether she turned out to be an ancient man living in the Icelandic interior or a woman waiting tables at a Texan diner – Ferrante writes in an autobiographical mode. That is fuel for the truthers, a sort of literary ankle-flashing. But it is also good cover for another motive: a very contemporary form of envy of another’s autonomous space and their creativity, a rage that while they give us their work, they will not also give us their person." On a new collection of Elena Ferrante's letters, interviews and short pieces.