Toni Morrison wrote an obituary for James Baldwin in The New York Times, published December 20, 1987 and online for you to read. “Jimmy, there is too much to think about you, and too much to feel. The difficulty is your life refuses summation – it always did – and invites contemplation instead. Like many of us left here I thought I knew you. Now I discover that in your company it is myself I know.” Justin Campbell reflects on Baldwin, race, and fatherhood.
The 2014 Guggenheim Fellows were announced this week, and this year’s batch of honorees (PDF) includes ten poets, seven writers of fiction, and ten writers of “general nonfiction.” Among the names on the list, Millions readers will be thrilled to see Year In Reading contributors Hari Kunzru, Julie Orringer, Meaghan O’Rourke, and Susan Orlean, as well as a number of writers who had work mentioned in other peoples’ YIR posts: Adrian Matejka, Patricia Smith, Victoria Redel, and Claire Vaye Watkins.
“There has been a growth in the literary depiction of a particular type of friendship, one that has in the past found itself vulnerable to dilution and deflection by the ostensibly more powerful imperatives of heterosexuality and motherhood.” On literary female friendships, from Virginia Woolf to Elena Ferrante and Year in Reading alumna Zadie Smith.
In the New York Times, a review of 2013 Year in Reading alum Olivia Laing’s new book, which delves into the alcoholism of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and six other famous writers. Among the biographical tidbits in the book: Tennessee Williams had a brandy Alexander every day when he lived in New Orleans.
“The best critics do more than explain why they liked or didn’t like a book; they try to understand books, and show other readers, by example, how to read and think about those books. Specialized expertise can work in service of that goal, but is probably not as important as a willingness to attempt to be a work’s most thoughtful reader.” Elisa Gabbert writes for Electric Literature about who gets to translate and review works and takes Kazuo Ishiguro‘s latest novel, The Buried Giant (which we reviewed here), as a case study.