The last book that Michelle Vider loved was our own Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, which was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. Claire Cameron’s interview with Mandel from The Millions is a nice complement.
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
This is really happening: In February, an IBM-programmed computer will take on former champions (including Ken Jennings) in three games of Jeopardy. (via)
The recent opening of the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art has occasioned a number of rave reviews. They’re so good, in fact, that they’ve inspired Los Angeles Times writer Carolina A. Miranda to comb the write-ups for “evocative turn[s] of phrase, political metaphor[s], and references to lady parts” in order to assemble a standalone poem. Or, rather, it was standalone until artist William Powhida made a drawing out of it. (Full size drawing here.)
One downside to being an internationally acclaimed author is that people care an awful lot about digging into your past. Haruki Murakami has found this out the hard way, as a librarian from Kobe High School (which Murakami attended during his younger years) has made public a list of books checked out by then-budding author. For more “Murakami meets library,” here’s a review of his own The Strange Library.