New this week: The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann; Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal; Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra; How to Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus; Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans; and The Night Stages by Jane Urquhart. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
Are people losing interest in fiction that “offers more questions than answers?” In her book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley suggested that modern readers have little taste for uncertainty. At The Rumpus, Rob Roberge asks how much this contributes to popular disinterest in literature.
The Onion headline Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger: “In this big dramatic production that didn’t do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud.”
Guernica sits down with political cartoonist Ted Rall to talk about his new book, Snowden. “I spent a lot of time drawing Snowden for this book, and I really don’t understand his hair. If I ever meet him, I’m going to request to touch his hair.” For more on cartoons, we reviewed The Best American Comics 2014 (guest edited by Scott McCloud, who we interviewed earlier this year).
Recommended Reading: Tabitha Blankenbiller responds to The New York Times’ piece on Manly Book Clubs. “Reading the article yet again, my pity for this dude squad begins to blossom. To think that they will head into the ground without the words of Terry Tempest Williams or Lidia Yuknavitch or Sandra Cisneros in their hearts.” For a bit of humor about a manly book club, check out our rock ‘n’ roll book club.
You’ve probably heard it before: never end a story with the phrase “it was all a dream.” Unfortunately for the person who taught you this rule, many classic stories (including Anna Karenina) take place at least partially in dreams. In the NYRB, Francine Prose investigates the trope in fiction.
“The way Vermeer painted this wall is consistent with a photograph. It is not consistent with human vision.” In a fascinating new documentary by Penn and Teller, a digital-graphics artist spent five years building a lens, a room, and a harpsichord to figure out how.
A pair of debuts are making waves this week. Amy Waldman’s The Submission ponders an alternate present in which a Muslim man is the anonymous winner of the search for a design to build the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. Ernest Kline’s Player One is a “genre-busting,” pop culture-infused take on the virtual reality future that awaits us.