Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel includes, among other discomfiting things, a series of fake advertisements for surreal women’s beauty products. The plot, which follows a proofreader named A, begins with the main character’s attempt to evade her roommate, and eventually brings A to join a “Church of Conjoined Eaters.” At Slate, Molly Fischer argues the book deftly captures our society’s weird treatment of femininity.
Ever since Pulphead, we can’t get enough of John Jeremiah Sullivan, so we’re happy to hear he’s at work on his next book, The Prime Minister of Paradise. Sullivan will tell the story of Christian Priber, a German American who tried to establish a utopia in 18th century South Carolina. “This man, he really represented the height of the enlightenment at the time,” Sullivan said during a recent interview at Notre Dame. No word on an official release date yet, but it’s already being optioned for film by Scott Rudin.
“We are not buried in history, but surrounded by it. You can’t avoid our behavior being shaped by it, to a considerable degree. We have this fantasy that we are free of history. This allows us not to see the circumstances, the historical circumstances of other people.” The Rumpus interviews Russell Banks about his new book Voyager: Travel Writings.
Though it’s long been known as the gentleman’s sport, tennis seems to be slipping a little bit in its cultural refinement. Melville House has a blog post on the reading habits of elite players, and they’re spotty at best, though Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and Camus are all mentioned, as are J.K. Rowling, Tolkien and, simply, “newspapers.”
Anya Ulinich, author of Petropolis, talks to World Literature Today: “What else can a person do when she gets home after a ten-hour work day – with a toothache that she can’t afford to fix . . . – but fall on the couch and watch whatever is in front of her face?” . . . Lydia Davis, whose Collected Stories is just out, talks to Sarah Manguso for The Believer: “At the origin of the work there has to be strong feeling, if it’s going to be any good. Of course, that strong feeling can be a delight in language.” . . . The Book Bench unearths a 1978 John Updike interview with a Croation periodical, which finds the Rabbit Angstrom author halfway through his tetralogy. . . . Edwin Frank of NYRB Classics talks to Omnivoracious, and selects his favorite books in the series (via). . . . And James Ellroy submits to interrogation at The Paris Review: “I was always thinking about how I would become a great novelist.”
“What stereotypes will they critique, destroy, or create? What, in other words, will the post-earthquake novel reveal about Haiti’s most recent losses, obstacles, and hopes for the future?” Patti Marxsen on the post-earthquake Haitian novel, over at The Critical Flame.
“While pressure from Amazon forced Borders out of business in 2011, indie bookstores staged an unexpected comeback. Between 2009 and 2015, the ABA reported a 35% growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227.” Professor Ryan Raffaelli read this surprising statistic and decided to study what exactly independent bookstores were doing in order to reinvent themselves and thrive. He found it has to do with indies embracing the three Cs; community, curation and convening. The full report will be released in 2018 but you can glimpse a preview here. Three cheers for indies!