“For me, language was a kind of initiation into multiple realities. For if one language could be certain of a table’s gender and another couldn’t be bothered, then what was true of the world was intimately tied, not to some platonic ideal, but to our way of expressing it.” Ana Menéndez on being a multilingual writer in the twenty-first century.
Word on the street is that Oprah's new book club pick will be Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. So, last chance to get one before the Oprah logo goes on the front. We first wrote about Akpan when he appeared in the 2005 New Yorker debut fiction issue. Say You're One of Them was also a "Most Anticipated" book in 2008.
"On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be 'forbid' and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin." On John Cleland's (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
In the annals of Southern literature, Elizabeth Spencer isn’t as well-known as Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, but she is, Wilton Barnhardt writes, “one of America’s best short-story writers.” The 92-year-old author’s new collection marks “65 years and counting of superb writing,” he argues.
Amazon announced that on Christmas day it sold more Kindle ebooks than regular books (and that the Kindle is not the site's most popular gift ever). Chadwick Matlin outlines at The Big Money the reasons why the Christmas day surge in ebook sales don't matter. The New York Times suggests each new version of the Kindle may be getting worse, and separately dubs 2010 the "Year of the Tablet."
Shakespeare was an insult master, as were Churchill, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and… Cézanne? Apparently so. In The Irish Times, Colm Tóibín reads through the painter’s letters, one of which includes a gripe that “Pissarro is an old fool [and] Monet is a wily bird.” (You could also read Claire Cameron's Millions review of Tóibín’s latest novel.)
What happened to the literature of clothing? Writers like Balzac and Proust wrote philosophies of clothing, but nowadays there seems to be a wall between literary writing and fashion. In Public Books, Mary Davis reads Women in Clothes, a collection which reveals a lot about how much our views of fashion writing have changed. FYI, Rachel Signer reviewed the book for The Millions.