“‘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.
Seeing as yesterday was Donald Barthelme’s birthday, it’s as good a time as any to remember the short fiction icon. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova reads Barthelme’s essay “Not-Knowing,” which you can find in the author’s collection of essays and interviews. Sample quote: “Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, but because it wishes to be art.”
Amidst all the sad tales of great bookstores going under, the Strand remains a fixture of the New York lit scene. At Vulture, Chris Bonanos explores the many reasons why the Strand is still afloat, among them the store’s increasing sales of new books. You could also read our own Janet Potter on her lifelong infatuation with bookstores.
A very thoughtful essay by Millions contributor Patrick at his home base, the Vromans bookstore blog. The nut of the piece is the idea that publishers can and should create stronger brand identities. Patrick points out some publishers that are already doing this, and there’s some great stuff in the comments as well. The piece is a reaction to an equally interesting essay from if:book.
New this week is Monica Ali’s “what if” novel about Princess Diana, Untold Story. Also out is Bright’s Passage, an effort, which readers appear to be taking seriously, by singer-songwriter Josh Ritter to cross over into literary fiction. Finally, short story master Bobbie Ann Mason has a new novel out, The Girl in the Blue Beret.
Jenny Diski‘s personal take on Roman Polanski and rape, at the London Review of Books.