The practice of naming children after a dead sibling was surprisingly common up until the late-nineteenth century–Salvador Dali, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Vincent Van Gogh were each “necroynms,” or the second of their name. Jeannie Vasco’s essay for The Believer on necronyms and grief is perfect to read alongside this essay for The Millions by Chloe Benjamin on naming not humans, but novels.
“It’s easy to attribute genius to a dead man, a legendary philanderer, liar and self-mythologizer who died beautiful and curly-haired. But ‘What About This’ is an authentic outpouring like a warm river in full flood; you get swept off the bank and its languid physicality destroys you.” On Frank Stanford’s Collected Poems.
“Dmitri Nabokov, the son of Vladimir Nabokov, who tended to the legacy of his father with the posthumous publication of a volume of personal letters, an unpublished novella and an unfinished novel that his father had demanded be burned, died on Wednesday in Vevey, Switzerland. He was 77.” At MetaFilter, the son daughter of the lawyer for Nabokov’s literary estate remembers Dmitri, who was also a family friend. Dmitri once made a very brief appearance here at The Millions, leaving a comment (which we were able to authenticate as being from Dmitri) on Kevin Frazier’s compelling defense of The Original of Laura.
As the 20th century wore on, the Strugatsky brothers grew pessimistic about Soviet Communism, eventually turning their fictional worlds from socialist utopias to dystopias. Their most famous early novel, Noon: 22nd Century bears little resemblance to later works like Hard to Be a God, which implicitly criticizes the Soviet government. At The Paris Review Daily, Ezra Glinter charts their evolution.
In addition to the fact Amazon reviewers and experts agree “in aggregate about the quality of a book,” non-professional reviews on Amazon tend to be “more eclectic,” “more supportive of debut authors,” and less biased in favor of authors with whom they associate than media experts.
With the help of Our Final Hour author Martin Rees, Cambridge will soon open a Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. The Centre will investigate the threats posed by “artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology.” To my ears, this sounds an awful lot like Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, which was memorably depicted in John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “Violence of the Lambs.”