Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes … it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.
Remember when Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by a hyena? Wait, that’s not the folktale we know. Whether or not Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten depends on where you hear the famous folktale, but anthropologist Jamie Tehrani discovered the origins of the scarlet-hooded girl — Belgium.
Just because Beowulf‘s influence on Tolkien isn’t news doesn’t mean the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s translation of the epic poem this week isn’t exciting. But while Tolkien’s name alone may be enough for the serious fan, Ethan Gilsdorf at the New York Times has given general readers an introduction to the history of the new translation complete with some insight into Tolkien’s love of the epic poem.
Ferris Jabr writes for The New Yorker on the “profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing,” and cites books such as Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway as evidence this “curious link between mind and feet” is a serious literary force. After you’ve finished reading Jabr’s piece, be sure to check out Michelle Huneven‘s essay “On Walking and Reading at the Same Time,” and then perhaps go for a little stroll with a good book.
It’s that time of year again, readers. It’s time to stock up on gossip, skim through pieces on your favorite writers and populate your bookmarks with pages from Ladbrokes and Intrade. It’s time, in other words, to prognosticate the Nobel Prize winner, which Ladbrokes predicts will be the novelist Haruki Murakami. If you read Ben Dooley’s review of 1Q84, you might have placed your bets already.
In memory of Peter Matthiessen, The Missouri Review has unlocked an interview with him from 1989. Matthiessen detailed the beginning of his writing career. “I started my first novel and sent off about four chapters and waited by the post office for praise to roll in, calls from Hollywood, everything. Finally my agent sent me a letter that said ‘Dear Peter, James Fenimore Cooper wrote this a hundred and fifty years ago, only he wrote it better. Yours, Bernice.’ I probably needed that; it was very healthy.” For more Matthiessen, you can read one of his best travel essays or his new novel, In Paradise.
The worst thing about owning your own bookstore? According to Garrison Keillor, it’s that “you do not get a 10 percent discount when you buy books. I don’t know why. It was explained to me once, and I didn’t understand. I mean, I’m the owner, right? But no, that’s not how it’s done.”