New this week: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel; The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah; Youngblood by Matthew Gallagher; Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney; The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig; A Decent Ride by Irvine Welsh; Don’t Lose Track by Jordannah Elizabeth; and The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (who we interviewed this week). For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
When asked about his tenure as a professor of creative writing, Harry Crews used to say, “I may be at the university, but I damn sure ain’t of the university.” But in talking to his former students, Crews’s biographer, Ted Geltner, found that in spite of the writer’s efforts to distance himself from academia, he really was a passionate, memorable teacher. (Bonus: Yours truly named one Crews work his “most representative” Florida book.)
Over at Salon, Joel Whitney explains how The Paris Review worked with the CIA and “served, in part, as a covert international weapon of soft power.” While the possibility is certainly tantalizing, it’s necessary to read Whitney’s article alongside Carolyn Kellogg’s piece in the LA Times, which notes how “the threads of the article … become unsupportably tenuous” as it carries on.
“Over the course of our conversation, I’ve come to understand that he has not written (Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings) to provoke or to engender a self-serving sense of shock; he has written with a belief in the possibilities of liminal space and in the revelations that occur at the point of tension. The result is a book that jars, unequivocally, and that disquietingly brings to the surface the anguish of past and present America.” Stephen O’Connor’s poetic reimagining of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings has certainly raised some eyebrows. This interview with Melody Nixon at BOMB gives O’Connor a platform from which to explain his idea.