Recommended reading: Jonathan Russell Clark examines “The Fine Art of the Footnote” for Literary Hub. Pair with his Millions articles on the opening sentence, the closing sentence, and doing away with quotation marks altogether.
On the London Review of Books blog, Kaya Genç makes the case that the similarities between the successful Turkish author Elif Şafak’s work and Zadie Smith’s books is a fact of Turkey’s shifting cultural values rather than plagiarism: “Istanbul, the city Shafak returned to after writing her book in London and the setting for many of her earlier novels, resembles London more and more.” For a bit of context, here’s Lydia Kiesling’s rundown of the initial scandal.
The world isn’t exactly wanting for character studies of Captain Ahab, but Chris Power manages to come up with a novel analysis of the character in this essay about the Moby-Dick antagonist. In Power’s telling, Ahab was valuable in part for what he told us about the 20th century — namely, he foreshadowed the dictators and despots to come. You could also read Hester Blum’s contribution to this essay about the best American novels.
“There has been a growth in the literary depiction of a particular type of friendship, one that has in the past found itself vulnerable to dilution and deflection by the ostensibly more powerful imperatives of heterosexuality and motherhood.” On literary female friendships, from Virginia Woolf to Elena Ferrante and Year in Reading alumna Zadie Smith.
“In a world where reality has become stranger than fiction, actual books are no longer selling.” At The New Republic, Morgan Jerkins talks with agents, authors, booksellers, editors, and publicists about whether the Trump presidency is bad for the book business. And on that note, let’s revisit our own Bill Morris on book releases: “There are few iron facts in the crapshoot of the literary life, but here’s one: In book publishing — no less than in music, war, and sex — timing is everything.”
Reddit users asked one another to name their all-time favorite poems. Not to be outdone, Poetry Brain asked its Twitter followers to name their all-time favorite poems… to read naked. Since I imagine the latter group is usually only able to read in the buff while at home, I bet they really lament the 2001 demise of Harvard’s “Phone-a-Poem” feature.