From the Paris Review: Daniel Torday on lost family stories, Pliny the Elder, and the origins of glass.
George Packer at Lapham’s Quarterly writes of meeting a young Burmese reader of Charles Dickens: “‘All of those characters are me,’ [he] explained. ‘Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can...I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.’” (via Book Bench)
NPR's Maureen Corrigan applauds Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna for "single-handedly keeping consumer zest alive for the literary novel," as "the only literary novel caught in the cross hairs" of the price wars waged by Wal-mart, Amazon, and Target against booksellers (the others being genre novels). As for the book itself: "I wish I could say she also deserves kudos for writing a spectacular work of fiction..."
American Short Fiction's managing editor Jess Stoner is reading local newspapers from one state a week and reporting on the big headlines in a better attempt to understand America. As she puts it, "Not to snark, not to make fun of people from unincorporated towns who write letters to the editor, but to share with you a more complicated, less yell-y look at where we are, with the hopes of better understanding where we might be headed." The first state is Alabama.
At Bookforum, Alexander Benaim reads the latest novel by Jess Row, which I wrote about as part of our most recent book preview. The novel poses a charged, intriguing question: what would happen if it were possible to change your race? (It might also be a good time to read the author’s Year in Reading entry along with our own Mark O'Connell's review of the novel at Slate.)
You may have heard that Glenn Beck, sower of anxiety about Obamanomics, is also a shill for gold coin dealer Goldline. But here's a conspiracy theory for you: Does Glenn Beck also have a stake in the modish French theoretical organ Semiotext(e)? The truth is out there, people.