Enlightenment comes in many guises, and though we usually think of it as arriving in a koi pond or a distant mountaintop, we can also find it, as the protagonist of Year in Reading alum Tom McCarthy’s new novel attempts to do, on Staten Island. In The New Republic, David Marcus reads the book.
“In the days after the procedure I was sometimes so exhausted by movement that I would wait patiently for someone to come in and give me a paper cup of pills that was almost, not quite, out of my reach. But somehow, I would always contrive to get my pen in my hand, however far it had rolled… When Virginia Woolf’s doctors forbade her to write, she obeyed them. Which makes me ask, what kind of wuss was Woolf?” Hilary Mantel writes a diary on hospitalization for the London Review of Books.
Actor and comedian Steve Martin‘s album The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo has been nominated for six International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. Listen to tracks from the album and read more about Martin’s musical side at NPR.
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The subjects of photographer Robert Dawson’s latest project are beautiful, educational, and in danger; they are public libraries. For his new book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, Dawson visited hundreds of public libraries, from little free libraries to icons, in 48 states to photograph “our best example of the public commons.” The Morning News has a few of his photos as well as an essay on the importance of libraries by Charles Simic. “Wherever I found a library, I immediately felt at home.”
Recommended Reading: Thomas Dylan Eaton on the Austrian writer Peter Handke.
“There is one rule [to writing biography] that all who try their hand at it come to know: until the protagonist reveals his or her character—his or her inner self—what the biographer produces is less a life than a report, an autopsy rather than the record of a séance.” David Levering Lewis writes for The American Scholar about biography and writing “the lives of African-American figures, and [finding] in them the story of our times.”