“‘What pleases the PUBLIC is always what’s most banal,’ he wrote to his brother in 1883. But nowadays Van Gogh pleases the public enormously. So has he become banal?” Julian Barnes reflects on Van Gogh’s life and work and how our perception of him has changed over time in a London Review of Books podcast. Interested in contemporary art? Check out our own Bill Morris’s piece on the Whitney Museum.
The Russian Ministry of Culture has come under fire recently after accusations were levied by the Russian Writers’ Union of some 500 books having been removed from libraries by authorities in the Komi republic–and another fifty allegedly incinerated in the process. Most of these were textbooks published with money from the Soros Fund, run by hedge fund billionaire and very vocal Putin critic George Soros. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture has denied the accusations, stating that “if any books are declared ‘extremist’ through a court proceeding, they are put into the special list of the ministry of justice and immediately withdrawn from libraries. However, even in this case books are not destroyed, they are just not lent out to readers.”
This week, Football Book Club will be reading Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened — as well as chatting about Steven Millhauser’s Edwin Mullhouse, bemoaning our empty NFL-free lives, and weeping about the shittiness of our respective teams.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Zone One author Colson Whitehead says the distinction between “literary” and “fantasy” genres “have no use for me in my day-to-day work experience.” Whitehead is just one of the recent high-profile authors to foray into genre fiction, however, as Kim Wright explored in a piece for us last month.
E.L. Doctorow, the renowned novelist and fiction writer best known for books including Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and the National Book Award-winning World’s Fair, passed away in Manhattan last night at the age of 84. You could read one of our numerous pieces about his work if you’d like to look back on his life and career.
Probably the biggest literary debut the week is Arthur Phillips’ The Tragedy of Arthur, a faux memoir about the surfacing of a long-lost Shakespeare play. Also out this week is the first book from former Soft Skull head Richard Nash’s new venture Red Lemonade: Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny. And, finally, now out in paperback is Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. (Our two reviews)