“Is it possible to keep an octopus in a private home?” “Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person?” Oh, the things people have asked reference librarians.
A half-century ago, Thomas Berger published Little Big Man, a satire of Westerns that helped increase the stature of the Western genre as a whole. To mark the book’s 50th anniversary, Allen Barra reflects on its legacy, suggesting that it’s as good a candidate as any for the title of Great American Novel. Related: Daniel Kalder on the odd phenomenon of the Euro-Western.
A few weeks ago, I let you know about The Guardian’s new series spotlighting the best 100 nonfiction books of all time. Today, we have a curious addition to the list: Ted Hughes’ 1997 collection Birthday Letters. Here’s a bonus Millions review of Jonathan Bates’ controversial new biography of Hughes, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life.
New this week: The State We’re In by Ann Beattie; Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner; The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips; The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton; In The Language of Miracles by Najia Hassib; Still Life Las Vegas by James Sie; and Subway Stations of the Cross by Ins Choi. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
Landays are traditional two-line folk poems, and they are particularly popular among Afghan women these days. Recently Poetry magazine dedicated an issue to the short verses, and Dowser has a behind-the-scenes look at how the issue was put together. Previously, New York Times Magazine caught up with some members of Mirman Baheerm, a women’s literary society based in Kabul.
Fancy a stroll? Flaneur, a new Berlin-based magazine, profiles one street per issue. It explores the culture, literature, people, and landmarks that make each street unique. The first is Berlin’s Kantstrasse. Pair with: Hyperreal Cartography, a tumblr of “real maps of places that exist but don’t.”
Who better to review a new sci-fi book than Ursula Le Guin? The Guardian editors couldn’t think of a better candidate either. She reviewed the new story collection Three Moments of an Explosion by the English writer China Miéville. Sample quote: “Pastiche, when present, is so skilful that it can go unnoticed.” You could also read our own Bill Morris on discovering Miéville’s work.
Ladbrokes, the popular bookmaker, has correctly predicted the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature with “a 50 percent accuracy rate” over the past eight years. This remarkable record is noteworthy because the oddsmakers do not actually read any of the books, and they do not go about “forming an opinion about the relative merits of each author.” Instead, the folks responsible for each year’s odds “appl[y] a numerical value to things like industry chatter, an author’s nationality, historical precedent.” So, that in mind, how confident do you feel about Haruki Murakami’s chances?