From J.R.R. Tolkien‘s High Elvish to Anthony Burgess‘s Nadsat: the BBC takes a survey of fictional languages and the invented words that made it into our everyday speech, like Dickens‘s “butterfingers” and Shakespeare‘s “scuffle.”
Nabokov once described himself “as American as April in Arizona,” which is an odd thing to call yourself when you’re a lepidopterist Russian expat. In Nabokov in America, Robert Roper explores why Nabokov felt he was so American, and how his journey to that identity influenced his writing of Lolita. At The Literary Review, Ian Sansom reviews Roper's book.
"The real world is massive and chaotic beyond the scope of any story, but the novel has always been the storytelling medium that could come closest to capturing it. And the novels that dared to really try – from Hugo to Tolstoy – are often the ones that have endured." That's not to say, of course, that bigger is always better, and in an article for The Guardian Damien Walter argues against the current glut of epic, serialized fantasy novels taking their cues from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. As Walter puts it, "There are great fantasy short stories, novellas and single novels that deserve much wider audiences, but are sidelined by the industry’s unhealthy fixation with the serial format. It’s time for the fantasy genre to tell some new – shorter – stories."
It's a big week for new books. Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke is now out, as is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy, Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge, and The Funny Man by John Warner, who recently appeared in these pages. Philip Roth's American Trilogy is getting the Library of America treatment. (Capsule previews of all of the preceding titles are available here, incidentally). New in non-fiction is Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Susan Orlean's Rin Tin Tin. And out in paperback: none other than Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.