“When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty.” Zoë Heller and Leslie Jamison debate whether or not we overvalue difficult literature in The New York Times.
"A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also." Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it's because he has "a bit of the opposition in him." This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.
What's the greatest tool to create suspense? An unreliable narrator, according to Gillian Flynn, who is a master of them if you've read Gone Girl. She discussed how to write a good thriller, why she doesn't believe in guilty pleasure reading, and her ambitious quest to read every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in chronological order in a New York Times "By the Book" interview. Pair with: Our conversation about Gone Girl.
We hear a lot about the books writers read while drafting their own novels and stories. But we don’t hear as much about the music, TV shows and other forms of art that kept them going throughout the process. At Page-Turner, Amy Bloom catalogues the influences on her latest novel.
“Why, hello there! — I was just appraising some rare PDFs in the back room when I heard you come in. Feel free to peruse our inventory, and if you have any questions, please allow me—one of the world’s foremost authorities on and purveyors of fine electronic books—to act as your steward through the wonderfully esoteric world of antique eBook collecting.”
If you want to read a book with obscenity in it in Russia after July 1, you'll find it in a sealed package with a warning label. The law is the latest in Vladimir Putin's censorship crusade and also bans swearing in films and live performance. Interestingly, the banned words are still up for the debate by the Ministry of Culture. At The New Yorker, David Remnick discusses just how unique and diverse the Russian language's profanity is.
Robert Darnton at the New York Review of Books considers the feasibility of creating a National Digital Library: “I know: the devil can cite Jefferson. Anyone can cull through the papers of the Founding Fathers in order to find quotations in support of a cause. But I can’t resist.”