“I find it amusing that people think trying to read a book in a language you do not understand is the most boring activity in the world. If you are interested in how literature works, these things are interesting.” On Lydia Davis‘s interest in learning to read Norwegian literature and writing at the end of the world, from the newly-launched Lit Hub.
“These were not like other poems: within their consistent 16-line armature they were turbulent, mad, feverish, cryptic, an unruly union of boppy jive-talk, and thorny quasi-Elizabethan diction. It was impossible to tell who was speaking, or to whom; poems ended in mid-syllable, bristled with random phrases in foreign languages, sported menacing-looking accent marks and Shakespearean contractions, were riddled with ampersands and ellipses.” At The Rumpus, a memory of falling in love with The Dream Songs (which happens to nicely complement a piece we published back in April).
“Tracing the journey of a mediocre actor and Holocaust survivor ‘touched by some mysterious higher design’ as he forges and impersonates his way through the war and then back to the city of his birth, the story is part Samuel Beckett and part Isaac Bashevis Singer, with a sudden final bolt of O. Henry. It has the flavour of a morality tale, but what’s most fascinating to me is how difficult it is to derive a moral from it, or rather how easy it is to derive more than one and how openly they stand in conflict with each other.” Kevin Brockmeier extols the fiction of Leandro Sarmatz.
"I'm trying to think of something really suitable to say. What do you think I should say? Look, you tell me what to say and I'll say it." That was Doris Lessing, who found out she'd won the Nobel Prize from a group of journalists who surrounded her when she was exiting a taxi. NPR has that great audio, plus other reactions of former Nobel literature laureates, including Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Our own fearless editor-in-chief, Lydia Kiesling, admires Lessing, but felt rather differently about reading one of her most famous works, The Golden Notebook: "Among other things, she did an uncanny job of creating a malaise that was actually infectious. It oozed right off the page and into my own spirit."
After a long and complicated drama that played out for five years in Israeli courts, a collection of Franz Kafka and Max Brod manuscripts will be transferred to the National Library in Jerusalem. The unique circumstances at play in this case have been previously written about by Elif Batuman.
Alex Stone reviews Guns N’ Roses founding member Duff McKagan’s memoir, It’s So Easy. It’s a book, Stone writes, that’s “intoxicating — in a pancreas-wrenching sort of way.” Bonus: McKagan’s Year in Reading for our site back in 2011.
"A month ago, I touched a lock of Sylvia Plath’s hair." At Tin House, Emma Komlos-Hrobsky examines the relationship between the late poet and her fans.