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.
“An artist you love occupies a weird in-between place, where they’re somehow a little more than a father, but a little less than a neighbour. They can permanently re-organize your consciousness but they can’t sell you a Coke. You feel you know them more than anyone you actually know, which means that you don’t really know a damn thing. I feel I know Elliott Smith, but if I picture him in front of me, I find myself picturing a tiny figurine, or Mount Rushmore.” Sasha Chapin has written an intensely personal essay about Elliott Smith for Hazlitt. Here is The Millions’ own Torch Ballads & Jukebox Music column to satisfy any lingering musical urges.
Newly minted Paris Review editor (and polymorphous enthusiast) Lorin Stein runs down some recent pleasures for More Intelligent Life. To wit: Lipsyte, Dickens, Du Maurier, Nádas, Merle Haggard, newcomer April Ayers Lawson, the Lydia Davis Proust, outer-borough maniacs, and “proletarian erotica”…not necessarily in that order.
“The morning after the opening sentence took shape, Heller “arrived at work”—at the Merrill Anderson Company—“with my pastry and container of coffee and a mind brimming with ideas, and immediately in longhand put down on a pad the first chapter of an intended novel.” The handwritten manuscript totaled about 20 pages. He titled it Catch-18. The year was 1953.” Happy Birthday Joseph Heller, author of the anti-war classic Catch-22, born this day in 1923 in Coney Island, New York.