You will not want to miss these fragments on writing, publishing, and remaining anonymous by the enigmatic Italian writer Elena Ferrante. This Millions essay by Cora Currier on reading Italy through Ferrante’s work pairs quite nicely.
Journalist and author Simon Winchester highlights five books “that shed light on the social history of his adopted homeland, from the late 19th century to the Great Depression.” We’re pleased to see Millions Hall-of-Famer Stoner make the cut.
The Tournament of Books rolls along with a few first round upsets (Congratulations, Sarvas!), but the highlight thus far might be a glimpse of Junot Díaz’s one-of-kind victor’s shirt from last year.Meanwhile, Stop Smiling offers up a Díaz interview.John Leonard’s son compiles a concordance to his father’s vigorous criticism, in which “thug,” “libidinal,” and “linoleum” make the top 10.The breathless inventorying of Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous papers continues.Our friend Eliza Barclay reports from the Andes, finding little cause for optimism.Victor Lavalle becomes the most recent essayist spurred to eloquence by the Obama inauguration.Also from the Atlantic, Hitchens and Marx: On again?James Wood and Claire Messud get grilled – sort of – by The Harvard Crimson: he’s the chef, she does laundry.The people who put William Kristol on payroll show themselves capable of good judgment. Congratulations, Ross Douthat!Wikipedia find of the week: beghilos (aka calculator spelling)Audrey Niffeneger is not feeling the recession. The NYT says $5 mil for The Time Traveler’s Wife follow-up.NPR explores the doodles of powerful people.CAAF spends some time with the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus and pauses on “limn.”Clay Shirky elucidates, perhaps better than most media pundits have, why newspapers need to be “thinking the unthinkable.”
“I’m used to writing in very weird contexts.” Poet Brian Sonia-Wallace talks with Minnesota’s Star Tribune about his gig as the Mall of America’s first-ever writer in residence. Asked if he’ll go crazy during his several-day-long tenure, Sonia-Wallace answered “probably” (via Bookforum). Our own Marie Myung-Ok Lee had some opinions back when the residency was first announced.
“Today’s vampires have traded their capes for fashionable leather jackets, their claws for manicures.” Becca Rothfeld writes for the Los Angeles Review of Books about the “the distressingly human lives of vampires today.” Pair with our own Emily Colette Wilkinson‘s “Ethical Vampires” and “Ethical Vampires, part II.”
Why is Hamlet so maddeningly indecisive? It’s a question as well-trod as any in literature, yet few people question that dithering is what defines the Prince of Denmark. In The Irish Times, Brian Dillon looks at another way of thinking about the character, one laid out in a recent book, that centers on the idea that Hamlet is crippled by “the burden of knowledge itself.”
In 1945 and 1946, the FBI began keeping tabs on Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Cold War was just around the corner, and the Bureau suspected their new targets were secretly agents of Communism. However, FBI agents who followed the French writers evolved in the course of their spying: they became, in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, “philosophical policemen.” (h/t Slate)
“I was interested enough in WikiLeaks, state transparency, and emergent opposition networks to do five years in prison over such things, but I wasn’t interested enough that I would have voluntarily plowed through 500 pages of badly plotted failed-marriage razzmatazz by an author who’s long past his expiration date simply in order to learn what the Great King of the Honkies thinks about all this.” Barrett Brown reviews Jonathan Franzen’s Purity from prison. Pair with our own Lydia Kiesling’s review of the book.