“I don’t try to deliver a message, teach, inform or ‘give back’ in my books. I simply want to tell a story. My writing is totally separated from my activism and social service, which are channeled through my Foundation.” Megan Bradshaw interviews Isabel Allende for Asymptote Journal.
Lisa Peet at Open Letters Monthly / Likefire blog on Millions contributor Sonya Chung's novel Long for This World: "When a novel, particularly a debut novel, is referred to as 'ambitious,' there’s usually an implicit 'but' present... Chung takes on the dynamics of family—what draws it together and what pulls it apart—through the eyes of a number of players, male and female, old and young, Korean and Korean-American. Both her subject matter and her approach are ambitious, to say the least. The only 'but' in my reaction, however, is but she pulls it off—and admirably." Read the full review.
"But the civil rights movement didn’t stop in Selma." In a follow-up to March, his award-winning graphic novel trilogy, Congressman John Lewis will have a new series published later this year by Abrams ComicArt, according to Time. Run, which will also be a multi-book series, will pick up where March left off. Pair with: The Millions's review of March.
It's a big week for new books. Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke is now out, as is Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks, Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy, Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge, and The Funny Man by John Warner, who recently appeared in these pages. Philip Roth's American Trilogy is getting the Library of America treatment. (Capsule previews of all of the preceding titles are available here, incidentally). New in non-fiction is Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Susan Orlean's Rin Tin Tin. And out in paperback: none other than Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.
Out this week: Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen; The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark; Second Life by S.J. Watson; The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall; Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos; The Household Spirit by Tod Wodicka; Valley Fever by Katherine Taylor; and Rise by Karen Campbell. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2015 Book Preview.
Having kicked off his career with a book of poetry, it’s not surprising that Ben Lerner is interested in the late Johns Hopkins professor Allen Grossman, who theorized that people dislike poetry because poems are -- by definition -- failures. In a piece for the LRB, he runs through the implications of Grossman’s theory, touching on poets as disparate as Shakespeare and William McGonagall. Pair with Kate Angus on why Americans don’t buy poetry books.
"[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one." The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews. The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton's memoir My Life: The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history. This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!