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.
Last October marked the release of a new volume in The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway. Spanning three years in the writer's early twenties, the letters in the volume track events including his first bullfight, the birth of his son Jack and the publication of his first collection of stories and poems. In The New York Review of Books, Edward Mendelson reads through the new volume. This might also be a good time to read our own Michael Bourne on A Farewell to Arms.
Libraries, if they hope to survive in the digital age, should do away with physical books and become sites of physical interaction instead, argues David A. Bell. For a starkly contrasting opinion, see Charles Petersen's critique of the NYPL's plans to do just what Bell recommends.
Here is Amitav Ghosh in conversation with Michael Berkeley for the BBC Radio3 broadcast about his new novel, Flood of Fire. In the interview, Ghosh talks about his childhood by the water and the influence of the sea on his work. He also curates a playlist of influential music that ranges from Bengali boat songs to Phillip Glass to ‘Hindoo airs.’
Recommended reading: "One of the drillers fell to his knees. Some sobbed, in the way men do when their mothers die, or when their sons are born." An exceptional and deeply moving long-form essay in the New Yorker recounting the 69 days spent underground by the famed '33' Chilean miners buried in the 2010 accident at Copiapó.
There are plenty of good reasons to read classic literature, but Mary Beard reminds us that there's a different kind of classic that's worth revisiting and questioning. "You do the ancient world much greater service if you keep arguing with them.”