“There was a plan a few years ago, during the crisis of unaccompanied minors arriving on our southern border, to send a copy of The Beast, Óscar Martínez’s extraordinary account of Central American migration to the U.S., to every member of Congress. How many of them read it? And how many of those who read it changed their position? Did any anti-immigrant populist show an ounce of humanity or generosity as a result?” Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk In Circles, on recommending a book to the president.
Coulrophobes take heed! You’re not scared of clowns because they’re inherently dark, or even because you caught a few minutes of Stephen King’s IT on television. In fact, you probably owe your fear of clowns to a fellow named Joseph Grimaldi, the “Homo erectus of clown evolution.” When this progenitor died in 1837, a young Charles Dickens “was charged with editing his memoirs.” The resulting portrait, relays Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, was what ultimately “water[ed] the seeds in popular imagination of the scary clown.”
Good news for people who like good things: The Missouri Review has unveiled a Little Black Book of Fiction app. The 99¢ app is a collection of 11 stories from the likes of William Gay (a Post-40 Bloomer), Robert Olen Butler and Nanci Kincaid – and each story comes with its own audio introduction, author information, and opening photograph.
In the spring of 2006, John Unsworth taught a graduate seminar on “Twentieth-Century American Bestsellers.” It led to one of history’s finest class projects–a browsable database of bestsellers, 337 in all. As with any bestseller lists, you’ll find a range of titles, everything from Thomas Wolfe to Tom Clancy, but click through and find that each entry includes an extremely detailed description of the book’s history (these were compiled by graduate students, after all); a mini-essay on its reception; images of covers, page layouts, and even some ads; and more. It is, in short, bibliophilic crack. (Thanks Craig)
This Sunday, come out to the KGB Bar and meet The Millions! A pile of staffers including C. Max Magee, Garth Risk Hallberg, Emily St. John Mandel, Sonya Chung, and yours truly will be there, and a good number of them will be reading their work. The event even ends by nine, so you can rush home to see Mad Men.
Some world literature links: Sign and Sight offers the best introduction to Herta Müller I’ve been able to find…The Complete Review gets the ball rolling on Roberto Bolaño’s (very) early novel Monsieur Pain, forthcoming from New Directions…Ingo Schulze, author of the quietly astonishing New Lives and the forthcoming One More Story, talks to The Toronto Star (via)…The NBCC features Yu Hua‘s Brothers…Claudio Magris is crowned the king of Frankfurt…Maud Newton hails Juan Gabriel Vásquez‘s “inventive and intricately plotted” The Informers…The Brooklyn Rail and Transcript both offer handsome online digests of short stories from around the world.
According to the New York Post, a new installation by British artist Antony Gormley–life-sized, cast iron sculptures of men placed on rooftops and building ledges around the city–has caused some New Yorkers and NYPD officers to take the sculptures for live jumpers. Oh, the price of art!