By the age of twenty-one, Eugene O’Neill had dropped out of Princeton, fathered a child and caught syphilis on a trip through South America. He was, in his own words, “the Irish luck kid,” blessed in a strange way with misfortune. Yet he went on to win a Pulitzer eleven years later. How did he do it? In the LRB, John Lahr reads a new biography of the playwright.
“Baldwin understood that if you are going to say something important about the world it is best if you try to say it beautifully. I don’t mean like picking flowers or writing on fancy stationery. I mean how you say it actually makes it a more meaningful piece of writing. I am going to push that further. It makes it a truer piece of writing. What you are saying is: ‘Can I make somebody feel this in a deeper way?’ That was what I was obsessed with.” Over at The Guardian, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about the success of Between the World and Me and being inspired by his father. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s essay on David Brooks and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Year in Reading alum Joshua Ferris has a new book on shelves this week, as does Millions contributor Porochista Khakpour. Also out: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro; The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings; Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore by Walter Mosley; The Orenda by Joseph Boyden; Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik; The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma; and Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2014 Book Preview.
Nowadays, Huck Finn is as a lightning rod for racial issues, which explains why so many schools have banned the book over the years. But in the late 18th century, when Mark Twain published it, the novel was more controversial as a critique of childhood in America. In the Times, Year in Reading alum Parul Sehgal reads Huck Finn’s America, a new book by Andrew Levy that sheds light on the context of the era. You could also read our founder C. Max Magee on reading Huck Finn as a child.