Implicit in a lot of the discussions about how negative a book reviewer can be is a question of utility: is a book review an act of public service or a work of art in itself? In the Times, James Parker and Anna Holmes debate the purpose of the review. Sample quote: “I’d argue that a majority of the reading public doesn’t necessarily benefit from the sorts of reviews for which artistry is the point.” You could also read our own Matt Seidel’s hypothetical worst review ever.
Edith Wharton is known as a novelist but she was also a wonderful hostess, whose guests (including Henry James) remember her as “kindness and hospitality incarnate.” Kate Bolick has turned Wharton’s life-long attempt to master “the complex art of civilized living” into an entertaining guide, “The Guesthouse of Mirth,” just in time for those last few summer parties. Pair with Roxana Robinson‘s reflections on Wharton’s life and works, including the original The House of Mirth.
What are college freshman reading? NPR shares a few selections from around the country. A recent study found that “The list of readings continues to be dominated by recent, trendy, and intellectually unchallenging books.” Our own Nick Ripatrazone writes about the difference between teaching high school and college students.
Friday would have been Ray Bradbury’s 94th birthday, which is why Dan Piepenbring, at The Paris Review Daily, looked back on one of Bradbury’s classic stories and picked out some choice quotes from his Art of Fiction interview. Piepenbring also pointed out that the story gets a mention in, among other places, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. You could supplement this by reading Tanjil Rashid on the author’s Middle East connection.
“In times of tension it is particularly important to defend what is good, identify what would worsen the status quo, strive for balanced assessments, always hoping for the best, and try to identify and oppose any and all steps toward coercive authoritarianism.” Richard Falk narrates the coup in Turkey at Guernica.
Terrible sex writing spans the globe according to this year’s Bad Sex Award shortlist. It includes: My Education by Susan Choi, The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood, House of Earth by Woody Guthrie, Motherland by William Nicholson, The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt, The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds, The City of Devi by Manil Suri, and Secrecy by Rupert Thomson. The winner will be announced on December 3.