“With thirteen other diners, the two professors of English first prepared and then made their way through eight courses, including beef broth, haddock, steak, mutton, chicken, and chocolate profiteroles….The dinner was a recreation of one eaten 132 years earlier, in one of England’s grandest country houses. Among the guests at this first dinner was George Scharf, founding director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, a man not especially famous in his own day and virtually unknown in ours.” Love Among the Archives brings us into the world of George Scharf, a bachelor affectionately deemed “The Most Boring Man in the World.”
Roger Boylan at the Boston Review writes about the flourishing posthumous career of Mark Twain: “…more than 5,000 previously unknown letters of Twain’s have surfaced in the last 50 years. This represents an average of two new letters per week, but still only about one-tenth of the 50,000 or so he is believed to have written.” And at Slate, Craig Fehrman discusses the “brilliant brand management” behind the handling of Twain’s autobiography.
“A film based on a historical subject, even a beautifully shot one, can remind us without meaning to that although reading in the US is a minority activity, the book is still the only medium in which you can make a complicated argument.” Darryl Pinckney writes about “Some Different Ways of Looking at Selma” for the New York Review of Books. Pair with our own Bill Morris‘s Millions review of the film.
For those in New York City this week, Goodreads is hosting a literary pub crawl around lower Manhattan this Thursday night starting at 7 p.m. Millions contributor Emily St. John Mandel will be joined by fellow authors Colson Whitehead and Amy King for a reading at Housing Works. After that, the group will decamp for Botanica and Tom & Jerry’s before finishing the evening at KGB Bar. The event is free (though the booze will cost you).
In the early eighties, when the writer James Lasdun was working in publishing, he rejected a book by a writer who turned out to be a pen name for Doris Lessing. The fallout? He couldn’t bring himself to read her work until this year. (Related: our own Mark O’Connell’s interview with Lasdun about his latest book.)
“Armand’s characters all seem both hugely present and in life’s juice and simultaneously dead, as if rent of brain, nerves, chest, stomach, intestines … Without gods and devils these patients feel that only fire can save them, existing eternally unless burned away.” Australian novelist Louis Armand’s newest, Abacus, is reviewed by Richard Marshall at 3:AM Magazine.