If you’ve ever heard that literary skill is synonymous with a good memory, you’ve likely bemoaned your own forgetfulness, especially when it comes to important things. Tim Parks felt the same way, until he read a new book on forgetting, which led him to wonder how much knowledge we can retain. In The New York Review of Books, he tackles the paradox of the reader’s memory. You could also read our own Mark O’Connell’s review of Parks’s book Italian Ways.
Version 2 of McSweeney's quirky iPhone app includes an ebookstore with custom-designed ebooks. "Whereas most ebooks have weird line breaks, stretched type and clunky fonts, ours are actually designed so they look just as they do in print - clean and beautiful."
Newsweek Senior Writer (and Millions contributor) Alexander Nazaryan has a new interview with William T. Vollmann up on Newsweek’s website. To start things off right, he reports that if Vollman were to win the Nobel Prize, he'd enjoy giving a decent chunk of the prize money to prostitutes.
In anticipation of Adam Sternbergh’s novel, Shovel Ready, Chris Bilton and Sarah Liss collaborated on “the ultimate N.Y.C. dystopia map,” which serves as an amalgamation of “some of the darkest visions of the city.” Meanwhile, Jacob Silverman points us to a map of St. Petersburg, Russia, "made out of lines from Russian literature.” (Bonus: Sternbergh discusses his novel with the Los Angeles Times.)
Francis Spufford’s fictionalized book Red Plenty looks to the 1950s-1960s “cybernetics” initiative to answer one of the main questions about the USSR: “Could the Soviet project to build communism have succeeded, or was it doomed to failure from the start?” In his review for The Hoover Institution, Marshall Poe contends the latter.
"When I was younger, I finished everything. I was a total martyr. Now ... I’m getting older. We have a finite amount of time on this earth. If something really doesn’t speak to you, and there’s not a ride-or-die reason to read it all the way through, then it’s time to give up." Ten questions for Lisa Lucas, the new(ish) director of the National Book Foundation.
Man Booker judge Colin Thubron expressed frustration with gushing book blurbs, which he says "almost blackmail" readers: “you’re either intellectually or morally incompetent if you don’t love this book or you’ve failed if you haven’t understood it.” Our own Bill Morris tackled the age old question—”To Blurb or not Blurb”—a few years ago.