How exactly does a cult classic make the leap to critically-acclaimed bestseller? It isn’t easy. The Telegraph takes a look at the confusing, circuitous publishing history of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls.
By now the overlap between writers and drug addicts is pretty well-known, but it wasn’t so well-known back when Thomas De Quincey wrote Confessions of an English Opium Eater. In the essay, De Quincey admitted that not only was he addicted to opium, he suspected he’d ingested more of the substance than any other man save Coleridge. (Incidentally, we reviewed a novel by Year in Reading alumnus Jeet Thayil that largely took place in an opium den.)
Before his death of natural causes in 2008, Henry Gustave Molaison had the world’s most famous brain. At 27, Molaison permanently lost the ability to form new memories, which led to him spending the rest of his life in “thirty-second loops of awareness.” In the LRB, Mike Jay reviews a new book on Molaison, Permanent Present Tense.
What is the greatest crime in literary history? Depending on who you ask, it was probably the burning of Byron’s memoirs. Shortly after his death, three of Byron’s closest friends, along with a few attorneys representing family interests, decided that the memoirs were too scandalous to publish and thus tossed them bit by bit into a fireplace. They claim to have been acting in his best interest, and, as Byron himself said, “There is no instinct like that of the heart.”
For better or worse, the publication date of Umberto Eco’s final book has been bumped up — originally set for a summertime release, Pepe Satàn Aleppe: Chronicles of a Liquid Society is now due out in Italian this weekend. Check out this Eco essay on how to travel with a salmon.
With the preliminaries out of the way, The Morning News Tournament of books unveils its first head-to-head matchup today, Teddy Wayne’s Kapitoil versus Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Don’t miss the commentary that accompanies each judgment (some say it’s the best part of the whole thing.)
Over at The Atlantic, Lydia Millet argues for the power and legitimacy of The Lorax’s moral message. Millet believes that the heavy-handedness of activist-minded fiction like The Lorax is powerful partly due to “its shamelessness. It pulls no punches; it wears its teacher heart on its sleeve.”
“Nigeria did fracture once, however, and it is this story that Chinua Achebe, a giant of African letters, tells. His memoir of the moment describes when the country, yoked together artificially by British colonizers, split apart at a cost of more than a million lives.” The New York Times Book Review on the writer’s There Was A Country.