Recommended Reading: This love letter to Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, “the only woman in the world.” Here’s a bonus infographic that compares Cleopatra to everyone’s favorite Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen.
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”
Next week, Martin Amis will publish Zone of Interest, a dark new novel that takes place, like his earlier Time’s Arrow, in Nazi-occupied lands during the Holocaust. In this week’s New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates reviews the book, suggesting that Amis is most compelling when he writes as a “satiric vivisectionist.” You could also read our own Mark O’Connell on Lionel Asbo: State of England.
Year in Reading alum Chang-Rae Lee has a new book out this week, and its cover is making headlines. Readers who buy the limited edition of On Such A Full Sea will get the first 3D printed book cover in publishing history. According to the printers, each cover took fifteen hours to make.
“It just goes to show you: it’s not just luck you need to have a successful literary career. It’s luck, piled on luck, piled on luck again, and around the corner, you need another sprinkling of it” says Michelle Dean, after investigating Stephen King’s rise in response partly to Dwight Allen’s “Snob Notes” on the author. Colin Dickey and Sarah Langan have both previously weighed on on Allen’s essay and King’s particular strengths.
In a TED Talk, Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer works. You can learn “surprising things” from 500 billion words, a string of characters which put together “would stretch from here to the Moon and back ten times over.”