“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?
To honor Peter Matthiessen, who passed away over the weekend, The New Yorker unlocked part of one of the author’s best pieces of travel writing. The piece, titled "The Last Wilderness," follows Matthiessen as he travels down the Amazon River. (His last novel comes out this week, as well.)
At The New Republic, Andrew Wylie talks about how he made millions off strictly “highbrow” fiction, a category which (for those who are curious) does not include the works of James Michener and the late Tom Clancy. Wylie -- whose clients include Philip Roth, Martin Amis and Mary Gaitskill -- suggests that a modern literary agency “needs to be able to expand infinitely, like a Borgesian library.”
In the Times Book Review, Year in Reading alum and Edinburgh author Alexander Chee reviews Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, a Millions contributor. He describes the book as, among other things, a departure from your average literary thriller: “If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now.”