Last month, while traveling through Des Moines, Iowa, President Barack Obama had the chance to interview one of his favorite authors: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson. The first part of the conversation was just published in the NYRB and the second part will appear in the next issue. Obama, who is a big fan of Robinson, had recently quoted her in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"We all read from different places, different backgrounds, and my meeting with Proust or Woolf, or Lydia Davis or J. M. Coetzee, will not be yours, nor should it be. On the other hand I do believe reading is an active skill, an art even, certainly not a question of passive absorption. ... [so] there must be techniques and tools that everyone can use or try, even if we use them differently." Tim Parks explains how he reads for The New York Review of Books.
In her “Classic Russian Writers: For Teh Internets” column at McSweeney’s, KA Semënova “updates classics of Russian literature with modern technologies to see if the insights of those writers hold up today.” Her first two pieces explore Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog” and Vsevolod M. Garshin’s “The Signal.”
Who’s the official Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Officer at your place of work? You mean you don’t have one? Well, get on that promptly. The Center for Disease Control advises that “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack,” so you might as well kill five birds with one stone.
World Book Night is scheduled for this Tuesday, and 25,000 volunteers will gather to distribute free books to “light and non-readers across America.” Last year, our own Edan Lepucki participated in the event and wrote about it for our site. However this year, if you’d like to participate on your own, you can enter the organization’s book giveaway to receive “5 free WBN editions to share with others.” Get out there and spread some literary love.
A lot of women feel a connection to Cheryl Strayed, but one reader's connection was personal. Strayed's lost half-sister found her when she just happened to check out Wild because she liked travel narratives. "She didn't know anything about me except when she read the description in my book of my early life, my mother and my father, she knew that father was hers, too. I don't name my father in the book but she recognized him," Strayed told NPR.
If eight Harry Potter movies weren't enough, we can expect three new Warner Brothers films about J.K. Rowling's spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The trilogy will feature the magical zoologist Newt Scamander as he goes on adventures in New York 70 years prior to the Potter characters.
From the Ruins of Empire author Pankaj Mishra recently visited Japan and wrote about the experience for Caravan. In particular, he was struck by the ways “much of [the country] presents a spectacle of aged modernity,” and how “it is with some shock that you recall that Japan was where once the future lay, before its bubble burst in the early 1990s, and the country, pushed inward by adversity, became a strange absence in our lives.”