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.
This week, New Directions offers up a collection that may offer some context to the Roberto Bolaño oeuvre. As the catalog copy suggests, “Between Parentheses collects most of the newspaper columns and articles Bolaño wrote during the last five years of his life, as well as the texts of some of his speeches and talks and a few scattered prologues.” Also out: Library of America does Kurt Vonnegut with Novels & Stories, 1963-1973; The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, a political tome by playwright David Mamet; and Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman, the scientist and polymath who was recently profiled in the New Yorker.
Recommended reading: elderly sisters contend with the youngest dying, in a quietly wry new story by Allegra Goodman at the New Yorker. “She pretended to sleep, and then she really did drop off. When she woke, her sisters were hovering over her. Some of us have overstayed our welcome, Jeanne thought. And then, with sudden shock, No: I’m the one. That would be me.”
Did our interview with Hilary Mantel yesterday pique your interest in her latest book? The Times has an excerpt you can read. Elsewhere, Damian Barr (who conducted the interview) pens a response to Lord Bell, who recently suggested that Scotland Yard should investigate Mantel for criminal intent.
Meet Ant-Roach, an inflatable clackety six-legged robot with a protruding proboscis whose goal is to demonstrate the high strength-to-weight ratios of inflatable platforms. Can we say kid’s birthday parties?
Literary Hub has an excerpt of an essay by Chris Jackson, Editor in Chief of Random House’s One World imprint on how we can actually achieve diversity in the publishing industry. “What’s the payoff of having a more diverse workforce? Well, there’s obviously the moral case to be made—and that’s a case that I think applies to any industry. But in book publishing, I think we have a special obligation, given our central role in shaping the culture.” And he shares the origin story of how he started to work with Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The first reviews of Zadie Smith‘s new collection of essays, Changing My Mind, are in and the general line’s a non-committal, guarded praise. I think it’s wunderkind jealousy, myself. Voici: The L.A Times review and The San Francisco Chronicle review.
“Like all great literature, [David Foster Wallace’s] books do many things at once. Litchat, however, is singleminded.” Laura Miller discusses “the perils of litchat” at The New Yorker and how it has affected the legacy of David Foster Wallace. For less litchat, read our review of The David Foster Wallace Reader.
This holiday season may set a record for gift returns, and perhaps that’s understandable given the economy. But what does it mean if you simply abandon your things instead? A recent survey by Virgin Atlantic reveals which books are most frequently left behind by their passengers, and it raises that very question.