Out this week: A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk; The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray (whom our own Mark O’Connell interviewed today); Submission by Michel Houellebecq; Golden Age by Jane Smiley; The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor; Moon Up, Past Full by Eric Shonkwiler; and Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview.
“The clash of genre values is fundamental to the novelistic experience. That’s how we ought to be thinking about our books. Instead of asking whether a comic book could be “as valuable” as King Lear, we ought to ask how the values of tragedy and romance might collide.” Joshua Rothman writes about the coming “collapse of the genre system” and our own Emily St. John Mandel‘s National Book Award short-listed Station Eleven for The New Yorker.
In the Times, Virginia Heffernan bemoans how technology and the economic struggles of the publishing industry are leading to an increasing number of typos in books. However: “The Pollyannish upside to writerly inattention and cutbacks in publishing, then, is that readers sometimes see more of the human writer, and less buff and polish.”
“You should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children,” Ruth Graham wrote in Slate last week, stirring the proverbial pot of new adult fans of Young Adult bestsellers like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. A host of YA-defenders rose up to shout her down. “You should never be embarrassed by any book you enjoy,” Hillary Kelly responds in The New Republic, unrealistically (we’re embarrassed by quite a lot). For the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg cites examples of worthwhile, complex YA fiction we can certainly support: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Pushcart War, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Westing Game.
“She was to me and so many poets an exemplary and inimitable figure. And I mean to emphasize the tension between ‘exemplary’ and ‘inimitable’—what her example taught us was the necessity of going our own way, of being one with others.” Ben Lerner remembers C.D. Wright, who passed away earlier this week.
In the nineties, when Jack Livings was teaching English in China, he was gathering material for The Dog, his short story collection that recently won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize. In an interview in the WSJ, he talks about his research process, Chinese idioms and Uighur-Han relations. You could also read Casey Walker’s syllabus for modern China. (h/t The Rumpus)
“Russian humor is to ordinary humor what backwoods fundamentalist poisonous snake handling is to a petting zoo. Russian humor is slapstick, only you actually die.” Ian Frazier writes about the strange humor of Daniil Kharms for the New York Review of Books.