For over twenty years, from the thirties through the fifties, a group of Oxford writers who called themselves The Inklings met weekly to drink, exchange ideas and read aloud their drafts. Though J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were easily their most famous members, the group had other notable figures, among them the language historian Arthur Owen Barfield. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, a history of the group.
It’s another huge week for new releases. Happy Murakami day! Haruki Murakami’s long-awaited 1Q84 is finally here – look for our review tomorrow, as is Walter Isaacson’s headline-making biography of Steve Jobs. Also out is another massive and hotly anticipated work in translation (1152 pages!), Hungarian Peter Nadas’s Parallel Stories. Lydia Millet has a new novel out, Ghost Lights, and Thinking, Fast and Slow is set to arrive from Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman.
“Ageists who want to fault millennials for the continual decline in literary reading are wrong to do so. Across the board, there wasn’t much considerable variation in the amount literature age groups read. Everyone is hanging out in the 39–49% range.” Is America in the midst of a literary recession? According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 2015 marked the first year in 33 cycles of research that the percentage of adults who read literature had dropped below 45% to a dismal 43%.
Leave the marshmallows at home, and bring your bow and arrow to summer camp instead. In Largo, Florida, the Country Day School created a camp based on The Hunger Games, where campers play intense games of capture the flag. Don’t worry, killing your fellow campers isn’t allowed.
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”