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.
“I just didn’t see the textual evidence for it. If Mark Twain wanted to make somebody black, he would make them black. He was not shy about dealing with matters of race.” For The New Yorker, Mythili G. Rao on the complicated backstory to the upcoming publication of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, a “new” children’s book by Mark Twain. See also: our consideration of Twain’s self-deprecating travelogue The Innocents Abroad.
Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings has been a Millions favorite, so we’re excited to hear about her next book, Belzhar, a young adult novel inspired by Sylvia Plath. The book comes out on September 30 and follows a 16-year-old grieving at a boarding school for fragile teenagers, where she and her classmates discover an alternate world. Wolitzer spoke to NPR about why she was drawn to YA. “Much of what adolescents feel seems set in relief, and much of what they experience is happening to them for the first time.”
Some seriously deranged Amazon customer reviews. (via Doc Searls)A year ago “Our Lady of the Underpass” was a Chicago phenomenon. Eric Zorn revisits.Chimney sweeps and flower pots are the stuff of poetry for Sam.Dale Peck’s recent judgment in the Tournament of Books is scarcely worth mentioning, but I did very much enjoy Kevin Guilfoile’s commentary on the topic as well as his tale about meeting Ken Kesey.Kakutani’s reign of terror turns 25.The Literary Saloon points us to Jonathan Franzen’s new book. It’s a memoir, and like Ed, I am disappointed by that.The Rake chats with Charles D’Ambrosio