In the late seventies, when Susan Sontag was recovering from cancer, she hired an assistant to help her catch up on correspondence. Her editor recommended Sigrid Nunez, who began working for Sontag and ended up moving in with her. Nunez now recalls the experience with a mixture of gratitude and pain. In Dissent, a look at the economy of creative assistants.
“The French writer Marcel Proust paid for glowing reviews of the first volume of his Remembrance of Things Past to be put into newspapers.” Letters by Proust, which will be auctioned off at Soethby’s in Paris next month, reveal he was willing to pay handsomely for flattering references to his novel. See also: the first entry of The Millions’ Hannah Gersen‘s column, The Proust Book Club.
The “good bad guy” has been having his moment on television. From Don Draper to Tony Soprano, America loves the anti-hero. Here’s a look at some literary anti-heroes from over at Ploughshares. You are likely to either agree with or be enraged by this essay from The Millions on likeability in fiction.
New this week: The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota; The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien; Chicago by Brian Doyle; The Destroyer in the Glass by Noah Warren; Dothead by Amit Majmudar; Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead by Millions contributor Buzz Poole; and New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
This week sees the release of Edward St. Aubyn’s final “Patrick Melrose novel,” At Last. A new, omnibus edition of all the novels in the series is also out. Steve Erickson’s new novel These Dreams of You is out, as is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a debut effort set in Burma by German novelist Jan-Philipp Sendker. This week also sees the release, on Blu-ray, of the 50th anniversary edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Do you like listening to music, but often struggle with an appropriate drink order? Enter Drinkify, a website which suggests cocktails based on the tunes you’re playing. (I tested it out with The Wu-Tang Clan. It told me to drink “1 bottle of gin.” Do with this information what you must.)
George Perec‘s I Remember, a series of aphoristic memories modeled after Joe Brainard’s volume of the same name, are finally making their way into English translation. The Paris Review has an excerpt. “I remember that Stendhal liked spinach… I remember that one of the first decisions that de Gaulle took on coming to power was to abolish the belt worn with jackets in the military.”