Those of you with some knowledge of Pale Fire and Lolita won’t be surprised to learn what Nabokov thought of dinner parties. Namely, he thought they were awful, vaguely surreal events, held largely by drunkards with overriding appetites for drama. At The Paris Review Daily, Sadie Stein quotes a passage from “The Vane Sisters” to explain why “It’s hard to think of someone you’d want less at a midcentury faculty tea, save maybe a seething Shirley Jackson.” You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor.
Joshua Rothman writes for The New Yorker about Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, privacy and “a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open.”
“I started keeping a journal when I was eight, but even before then I was a kid who loved making long lists of everything I could see or remember. Coconut, tricycle, jeepney, air freshener, I would write, for example, and my lists would lengthen and become even more specific as I grew to know the world around me. […] Reading and writing always seemed a part of my life and identity.” For The Rumpus, Swati Khurana interviews Janine Joseph about writing poems as teenagers, writing from experience, and what it meant for Joseph to “come out” as an undocumented immigrant.
A moving tribute to Ray Bradbury on The Paris Review Daily from his one time fact checker Stephen Andrew Hiltner: “Ray Bradbury, who never went to college and was entirely library educated, had what so many of the sophisticated, MFA-carrying writers today lack: passion, vitality, emotional awareness.” Also: Wired has collected a bunch of reminiscences from science fiction writers, including Ursula K. Le Guin.
A lot of women feel a connection to Cheryl Strayed, but one reader’s connection was personal. Strayed’s lost half-sister found her when she just happened to check out Wild because she liked travel narratives. “She didn’t know anything about me except when she read the description in my book of my early life, my mother and my father, she knew that father was hers, too. I don’t name my father in the book but she recognized him,” Strayed told NPR.
If you didn’t make it to BEA this year, first be thankful that you didn’t have to eat any of the food around the Javits Center. Then, check out some of the highlights from the comfort of your desk chair. I recommend Ami Greko and Ryan Chapman’s perennially excellent 7x20x21 panel, which this year featured Nate Silver, Dan Wilbur, and Sheila Heti among others.
L.A.-based readers won’t want to miss this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held this year on the USC campus. Millions staff writer Patrick Brown will be moderating a panel discussion about bookselling, “From the Front Register,” on Saturday at 12:30 pm. At 2:30 that same day, I’ll be on a panel facilitated by Lizzie Skurnick called “Fiction: The Long and Short of It.” My fellow panelists are Yiyun Li and occasional Millions contributor Victoria Patterson. Go here for details and to order panel tickets (just $1 each)!