Recommended Reading: On Michel Tournier and the novel of ideas.
In the latest issue of The Boston Review, Elaine Scarry reviews Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker argues that literature, by bolstering man's empathy, has lead to huge reductions in worldwide violence, a thesis that sounds dangerously close to the absurd pop-science of Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal.
This piece on the limited language of David Lynch from Dennis Lim over at The New Yorker is a fascinating journey into the mind of the peculiar auteur behind such gems as Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. Lynch will be publishing what he has called a “quasi-memoir” sometime in 2017.
We tend to take it for granted that the world needs more translated works. The dictates of common wisdom state that reading translated works help us understand the reality of foreign cultures. But what if translation, which erases at least some nuance from works of literature, instead “sifts out the foreign or the unsettling in the name of easy consumption”? In The Irish Times, Michael Cronin reviews a recent book by NYU professor Emily Apter.
What can we learn from anachronisms? That mistakes are "ultimately unavoidable – the best you can hope for is to keep them to a minimum and noticeable only by a tiny coterie of demanding experts" - and that if those mistakes are big enough, they can eventually turn into "enduring ideological constructs."
Writing for Full Stop, Robert Fay asks, “If Mr. [T.S.] Eliot had to have a day job, why is it that writers and poets today are so cagey about what they do to pay the bills?” Previously, two of our staff writers have explored similar aspects of the same question. In 2009, Emily St. John Mandel wrote of the “constant struggle” that arises from “striking a balance between writing literary fiction and paying the rent.” And last year, Edan Lepucki looked at the perils of including “non-writing jobs” in one’s author bio.
Appearing Elsewhere 1: Be sure to check the Tournament of Books on Monday for Max's judgment. Which will be the victor, Shadow Country or The Lazarus Project?Appearing Elsewhere 2: Check out Millions contributor Emily's review of D.J. Taylor's Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age at The Washington Times.Further Reading: Many additions have been made to The Millions' Collaborative Atlas of Book Stores and Literary Places. Don't forget to add your own favorite spots."Inventor Paolo Bizziocchi proposes that it would be easier to read text if it were sloped downhill from left to right." And he has a patent!Michael Jackson is auctioning off a whole bunch of his possessions April 22-25 in Beverly Hills. The catalogues are entitled King of Pop: A once in a lifetime Auction Featuring the Personal Property of Michael Jackson. Definitely curious.Following up on the D.T. Max profile of David Foster Wallace (on which Garth weighed in), Max has answered some questions at the New Yorker website.The longlist of Orange Prize nominees has been announced and we're happy to see that debut novelist and Millions Year in Reading contributor V.V. Ganeshananthan is one of them.Book clubs are supposed to be for books, even if you're in elementary school.