As the 20th century wore on, the Strugatsky brothers grew pessimistic about Soviet Communism, eventually turning their fictional worlds from socialist utopias to dystopias. Their most famous early novel, Noon: 22nd Century bears little resemblance to later works like Hard to Be a God, which implicitly criticizes the Soviet government. At The Paris Review Daily, Ezra Glinter charts their evolution.
“In my mind, the encircled bird on the cover of the 1978 Pocket Books edition of Play It As It Lays immediately recalled another: the mockingjay pin given to Katniss Everdeen at the start of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.” At Paper Monument: the importance of book covers.
Can’t wait for Haruki Murakami’s new novel? You’re in luck: Slate just published an exclusive excerpt from the book. Sample quote: “No matter how quiet and conformist a person’s life seems, there’s always a time in the past when they reached an impasse. A time when they went a little crazy. I guess people need that sort of stage in their lives.” (You could also read Ben Dooley’s review of 1Q84.)
The international popularity and utility of English doesn’t show any signs of slowing, but what will the language look like after a few generations of increasing usage? The Economist gives a brief answer, but it doesn’t address the ways English is or will be used by different people to tell their stories. Damian Fowler addresses this when he asks, “[W]hat does it mean to have an American point of view,” or to call a book American in tone, as opposed to British or just English-language? In a blog post for The Paris Review, Fowler offers an answer: American novels are characterized by “a spare, sure sense of narrative, reflected in a colloquial voice, free of affectation.”
Congratulations to our own Garth Risk Hallberg, who was a finalist for the Nona A. Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, awarded by the NBCC. Critic William Deresiewicz took home the prize. We wrote up the finalists in the fiction and non-fiction categories yesterday.
The New York Times gives Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch a well-deserved profile. I’ve mentioned before that his take down of the NCAA’s corruption is astounding, but now’s a good time to mention that his e-book, The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA, is even better. Branch also appeared on Wednesday night’s “Colbert Report” to discuss the book.
Year in Reading alumna Sarah Manguso writes about motherhood, writing, and the disintegration of the self in a moving essay for Harper’s. As she puts it, “I want to read books that were written in desperation, by people who are disturbed and overtaxed, who balance on the extreme edge of experience. I want to read books by people who are acutely aware that death is coming and that abiding love is our last resort.” Pair with Jaime Green’s Millions review of Manguso’s Ongoingness: The End of a Diary.