From the Paris Review: Daniel Torday on lost family stories, Pliny the Elder, and the origins of glass.
Novels that focus on obsessive characters hinge on persnickety details. The need to depict accurately the mind of an obsessive demands that the novelist overemphasize the trifling and tangential. In The Kenyon Review, Vanessa Blakeslee reviews a new and representative example of the form, The Understory by Pamela Erens. Sample quote: “When the smaller steps of daily life are magnified, does that narrative reach its greatest potential for a unified and powerful resonance?” FYI, Erens has written for us.
If you haven’t had a chance to finish perusing the New York Times Style Magazine’s ‘The Greats’ issue make sure you at least find the time to read Dave Eggers profile of Year in Reading alum Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is on one of their seven covers and if you’ve ever wanted to know about her family and what kind of reading she wants to do more of, this is the interview for you. “‘That boy,” she said, and sighed. She was still thinking about Edwyn. ‘There was something so clean and pure and true about his writing, don’t you think? Increasingly I find that that’s the kind of thing I want to read.'”
David Foster Wallace stranded on a desert island.Another reason to love Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley: his refreshingly enthusiastic take on “slacker fiction” and All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen, who, admittedly, “scarcely qualifies as a slacker.”Paul Auster was a protesting, fence-tearing, rioting crazy ’68er, too, it turns out.The phenomenal Burkhard Bilger supplements his New Yorker piece on folk-music field recordings with some audio.Malcolm Gladwell’s seemingly endless string of public appearances continues. This one is, intriguingly, a public “book discussion” with the Washington, D.C. chief of police.With some speculating that CBS News is about to close up shop and that Katie Couric is on her way out, rumors are already swirling about the obligatory memoir.Jonathan Franzen answers the question “Do you regret your run-in with Oprah?” in a “Big Think” video. Aficionados of Franzen mannerisms may also enjoy the other fifteen or so Franzen videos that Big Think has available.
Over at the New Yorker, Akhil Sharma argues that “Anton Chekhov’s “Sakhalin Island“, his long investigation of prison conditions in Siberia, is the best work of journalism written in the nineteenth century.” Pair Sharma’s argument, and admiration, with our own Sonya Chung‘s “I Heart Checkov” essay.