After Herzog came out, Saul Bellow began the slow transformation from young Bellow into old Bellow, from the critically adored but little-known writer to the Nobel Prize winner whose views were solicited on every topic. In The New Yorker, Louis Menand writes about a new biography of the author, which tackles his early career. Related: our own Emily St. John Mandel on Bellow’s novel The Bellarosa Connection.
As a child, Xiaolu Guo hunted birds and toads to survive. Now, as a writer in Britain, she’s written a memoir about her difficult childhood, which you can read more about in this review in The New Statesman. Sample quote: “Perhaps it is no coincidence that the reason that Guo gives for deciding to write in English is to be free of Chinese government censorship, a process that she describes as the wearing down of a rock’s sharp edges to a smooth pebble.”
“Baker is such a wonderful prose stylist that he could probably get away with publishing his diary—which, for epic stretches, is what Substitute feels like.” Over at The Nation, Evan Kindley reviews Nicholson Baker‘s latest, a 700-plus-page non-fiction exploration of substitute teaching. Spoiler: it’s not as sexy as Baker’s other work. If it’s the sex you want, see our primer on Baker’s novels; also immensely entertaining, our interview with the author from 2013.
In conjunction with the new documentary film “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (reviewed by our own Bill Morris last week), New York’s Third Streaming Gallery will be hosting a conversation on the role of art and artists in contemporary cultural activism. The discussion will be held tonight at 7pm, and it will include Rico Gaston, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, Donna Murch, and Minkah Makalani.
Here are a couple more pieces on Bill Keller’s departure as executive editor of The New York Times. An interview with Esquire conducted not long before his announcement: “Newspaper publishers have done more to kill newspapers than any innovative form of media.” And New York describes how Keller’s recent cranky columns about new vs. old media ticked off the newsroom.