Over at the Slate Book Review, Laura Miller gives Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series a fair shake. From Jesus to Reagan, O’Reilly and his cowriter Martin Dugard have killed off five famous historical “Great Men.” Despite claims of some dubious assertions having been made throughout the series, the books themselves have enjoyed tremendous commercial success.
In Meg Wolitzer’s new YA novel Belzhar, a group of teenagers packed off to an idyllic boarding school learn that they have the ability to undo their most serious traumas. Their discovery is sparked by a writing assignment in a class on Sylvia Plath. At Slate, Jennifer Ray Morell connects Wolitzer’s novel to Plath's classic The Bell Jar. Related: our own Hannah Gersen’s interview with biographer Elizabeth Winder.
Jonathan Franzen’s Kraus Project should be “a match made in heaven,” writes Jacob Mikanowski, because of how it pairs together “the old hater [Karl Kraus] and the new [Franzen], the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of cultural criticism drawn together across the gulf of a century to take on all comers.” Alas, the end result is instead a “strange and rather discordant experience, like receiving a deep tissue massage while being spat on from a great height.” (Bonus: One of the best London Review of Books openers of all time.)
"[E]ven though he was already sick with the illness that would eventually become the tuberculosis that killed him, Orwell left London to live on the Scottish island of Jura (off and on) for the next few years, where he could try to focus on writing fiction instead of journalism." Nathan Gelgud creates a wonderful illustrated origin story of 1984 for Signature Reads. Pair with this piece on the fall (literally) of the ur-Orwellian home.
There was an interesting piece on the intangible economics of fine art in this weekend's NYT Magazine that explains the difference between the markets for art and other luxury goods (like gold and property): "Because the art market isn’t regulated like financial securities, insider dealing is generally not illegal."
At 3 Quarks Daily, Akeel Bilgrami’s essay on the pleasures of literature: “To understand what is special about literature is not to delegate the emotions to literature while retaining thought for philosophy and science. The idea is to find in the distinctly expressive function of literature, a refusal of that tired dualism.” (via Book Bench)