One thing that pretty much everyone can agree on is that Go Set a Watchman is a controversial book. Our own Michael Bourne said it “fails as a work of art in every way except as a corrective to the standard sentimental reading of Atticus Finch.” At Slate, Dan Kois, Meghan O’Rourke and Katy Waldman debate the main questions the novel raised.
Recommended reading: The Guardian reports on Varlam Shalamov, a Russian author who spent 17 years in the harsh camps of the Kolyma gulag, wrote more than 140 short stories, and still claimed ““I hate literature. I do not write memoirs; nor do I write short stories. That is, I try to write not a short story but something that would not be literature.”
Shakespeare conspiracy theorists might still wonder who the real playwright was, but we do know what he would’ve sounded like. Linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, demonstrate the original pronunciation of the Bard’s best. Bonus: An interview with Ben on the research behind the pronunciation.
It’s good to see James Wood covering Richard Price in The New Yorker; and even better to hear Price himself on Fresh Air.And also from The New Yorker, may we recommend Dan Chiasson’s wonderful essay on Frank O’Hara?Luc Sante’s blog pretty much has to be good.Derek, the guy who got both Max and Garth started blogging in the first place, is taking part in a big group blog at the Washington Post covering the Nationals baseball team and its new stadium.With features like this reconsideration of The Gnostic Gospels, the New York Sun is quietly building what may be the country’s best books section.”Growing Up Radical: An Interview with Peter Carey” (via scott)”On Magic Feelism” – n+1 considers Kevin Brockmeier’s The View from the Seventh LayerBoris Kachka profiles Jhumpa Lahiri in New YorkSurreal: “Garfield” minus Garfield. Alternatively, “Garfield” without Garfield’s thought bubbles.Nobody knows if the Kindle is a hit, AP says, but something is happening.A book graveyard in Russia.Languagehat’s specialty: a thoroughly edifying investigation of a phrase pulled out of thin air.American Book Review has developed their own lists of 100 Best Last Lines from Novels (PDF) and 100 Best First Lines from NovelsThe Boston Globe argues that Bringing Down the House, the basis for the new movie 21, is not a work of nonfiction.
We’ve mentioned the “What books have stayed with you?” social media trend before, and now Facebook has tallied up the most popular titles by country. The results are both exactly what you would expect – The Little Prince ranks high in France, One Hundred Years of Solitude fairs well in Latin America – and a little surprising as the Harry Potter series tops the list in countries ranging from India to Italy to Brazil.
In Wayde Compton’s The Outer Harbour, a series of short stories take the reader from the present day to 2025, exploring a near-future Vancouver in which things grow steadily more surreal. As Emily Oppenheimer writes, it’s clearly a work of speculative fiction, yet the setting resembles our own world in uncanny ways. Sample quote: “Compton achieves the more troubling, yet ultimately more satisfying, goal of portraying the fantastical as something that is very much rooted in what we think we already know about ourselves and our world.”
“It is a sad irony that the snake’s rattle, which functions as a warning device, is widely regarded as a bellicose drumroll, or war-cry, instead. It may well have been in a mood of remorse for having killed a rattlesnake on impulse that [William] Bartram, vowing solemnly that he ‘would never again be accessory to the death of a rattle snake,’ painted his marvelous portrait of a coiled rattler.” Christopher Benfey on Rattlesnake Island, a sanctuary set up to protect the woodland serpents from their greatest danger — us.