In his lifetime, Vladimir Nabokov travelled widely, logging many years each in St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Ithaca, New York, where he wrote Lolita while teaching at Cornell. His peripatetic history explains why few people know he spent a summer in Utah, during which he spent a lot of time chasing butterflies and fishing in the streams. In The American Scholar, an excerpt of Nabokov in America, an upcoming book by Richard Roper. You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Nabokov’s Ada, or Ardor.
There’s no official protocol for responding to a disappointed fan, but that may change after more writers get wind of this response, written by Threats author Amelia Gray, to a man who complained that her book was “nothing more than conversations among insane people.” Gray admitted that the man’s gripe did, in fact, have merit, after which she urged him to buy a copy of A Time to Kill.
"Art isn’t a footrace. No one comes in first place. Greatness is not a universally agreed-upon value. ... America isn’t one story. It’s a layered and diverse array of identities, individual and collective, forged on contradictory realities that are imbued with and denied privilege and power. Our obsession with the Great American Novel is perhaps evidence of the even greater truth that it’s impossible for one to exist. As Americans, we keep looking anyway." Cheryl Strayed and Adam Kirsch discuss the Great American Novel in this week's New York Times Bookends. For a slightly different take, consider the 9 novels our experts chose as the Greatest American novels, from Moby-Dick to The Godfather.
What does it mean to be cool? According to scholar Joel Dinerstein, it means a person who conveys “relaxed intensity.” Using this definition, Dinerstein and Frank Goodyear III curated a photography exhibition of "American Cool" at National Portrait Gallery. The portraits feature everyone from Joan Didion to David Byrne.