“Everyone says Anna Karenina is about individual desire going against society, but I actually think the opposite is stronger: the way societal forces limit the expression of the individual.” Here is Mary Gaitskill on Anna Karenina for The Atlantic’s By Heart series, in which writers reflect on some of their favorite passages in all of literature. We’ve brought you a bit on By Heart here, here, and here.
“There’s still time to look something else up.” Merriam-Webster pleads with word lovers to prevent "fascism" from becoming its word of the year, The Guardian reports. See also: this Lithub piece about the social media genius behind M-W's Twitter feed.
On the Media's Bob Garfield hosts "The Genius Dialogues," a new interview podcast featuring recipients of the MacArthur Foundation's so-called genius grants. First-season guests include Radiolab creator Jad Abumrad; Luis von Ahn, founder of the language learning app DuoLingo; microbiologist Manu Prakash; choreographer Elizabeth Streb; and writer and producer David Simon. We've hosted a few geniuses here as well, including Ben Lerner, Yiyun Li, and Karen Russell.
George Dobbs explores the history of some common cliches for The Airship and makes an elegant argument for being aware of overused phrasing: "The worst fiction might never go beyond widely used tropes, but the best fiction starts with an awareness of them." We agree, and also hope never to read "It was a dark and stormy night..." again.
“Ah, I think, a lizard-poet. This particular category was one I had concocted years before to describe those poets who were too Olympian to mingle with the rest of us, who stood to the side, detached, having feelings.” Remembering Larry Levis, whose book of last poems, The Darkening Trapeze, was released this past week.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan drops today. Our review. Also out recently are Walks With Men, a novella by Ann Beattie, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a novel from Aimee Bender. This week also sees the long-awaited posthumous publication of Henry Roth's An American Type. Another recent posthumous publication: Robert Walser's mysterious Microscripts.