“I say peel back the immediate surface layer and let’s see what’s actually underneath, if it’s possible to find that out. As a child, of course, I grew up looking under dead logs to see if there might be a newt. Most of the time there wasn’t a newt. Sometimes there was.” Margaret Atwood talks newts and skepticism in a new interview over at Hazlitt. Atwood’s newest, The Heart Goes Last, is out now.
The 113th anniversary of Thomas Wolfe’s birthday was last Thursday, but the author lives on in America’s cultural memory thanks to the title of his 1940 novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Unfortunately, the titular phrase seems to be taken at face value by many people these days, and that can lead to some groan-worthy invocations. A newly-minted Tumblr blog illustrates the point.
"He wrote the first drafts by hand, and when that became too difficult, dictated sections of the book into a tape recorder." Before his death in July, playwright and actor Sam Shepard wrote a novel called Spy of the First Person, which is forthcoming from Knopf in December. From our archives, a list of writers who also act.
We’ve covered the Atlantic series By Heart a number of times before. It features notable authors writing about their favorite passages. In the latest edition, Mary-Beth Hughes picks out a paragraph from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, about a poet who’s trying to cope with grief. Sample quote: “Reading Fitzgerald, I felt it was possible to write as I’d experienced dancing.”
Out this week: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides; Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien; A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo; An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon; Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn; Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (whom we interviewed recently); and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
We've been back from our holiday travels for a few days, and I've finally had some time to catch up with some online reading. Here are some articles and links that caught my eye. (Several of these come from Arts and Letters Daily)From Scientific American, a look at last year's tsunami and how scientists have used this real life event to validate and augment various previously untested theories about these rare, cataclysmic events.The 2005 Dubious Data Awards: the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University highlights several examples of overhyped news stories based on dubious numbers.From Wired: Will the impending bird-flu pandemic be a global version of "the boy who cried wolf?" Scientists are trying to assess the real danger using supercomputers to play out fantastically complicated simulations that remind me of SimCity.In the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley "reconsiders" C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower saga. He suggests Beat to Quarters as the best in the series.I've definitely become very interested in the business of newspapers in the last few years. Mike Hughlett's article in the Chicago Tribune is a little "inside baseball," but it lays out how important classified ads are to newspapers, and explains why newspapers aren't as imperiled in the in online classified arena as some might suggest.Another tough business is opening a coffee shop. Michael Idov shares the harrowing details of his experience at Slate.A no-frills list of the bestselling books from 1900 to 1998, year by year.
New York-area readers are invited to come tonight to Housing Works bookstore in SoHo, where I'll be appearing at 7 p.m. alongside the Norwegian wunderkind Johan Harstad. We'll be reading from and discussing A Field Guide to the North American Family and Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? Music courtesy of Brooklyn's The Sweaters (not to be confused with The Cardigans.)
“Melville fell in love with the dashingly handsome older author the first time they met, and his forbidden passion drove him to create the symbol of impossible longing that now represents American literature to the rest of the world: the white whale.” On Herman Melville’s love for Nathaniel Hawthorne. Pair with a review of Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun.