No surprise here — Elena Ferrante fever continues to sweep the literary world. Last week, an Italian historian was forced to deny claims that she was actually the Neapolitan novelist. Now, The Guardian takes a look at the unique history of pseudonyms and posits whether Ferrante’s mystery might outlast some famous historical masqueraders. For the unacquainted, here’s a quick piece on reading Italy through Ferrante’s work.
Ever since the advent of modern neuroscience, the language of the brain scientist has entered our common vocabulary. Words and phrases like “synapse,” “chemical imbalance” and “hardwired” point to its relevance in contemporary culture. At Page-Turner, a look at how cognitive language and our notion of attention affects the way we think about fiction and music, with particular reference to On Beauty by Zadie Smith and Orfeo by Richard Powers.
“At the outset, Nair is in Sierra Leone to keep tabs on his old friend and uses the occasion to practice a little freelance extortion, stealing unspecified multinational secrets on a flash drive and sending them back to his girlfriend in Amsterdam. The first 50 pages are like a Johnsonian take on Graham Greene’s humid morality-play potboilers. Nair keeps meeting shifty European acquaintances and distrusting everything they say.” John Lingan reviews Denis Johnson’s new novel.
Soon HBO will have another show based on an acclaimed book in its lineup. Olive Kitteridge, a show based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout, will premiere on November 2nd. You can see the trailer (along with a brief analysis) over at Slate. FYI, Strout wrote a Year in Reading entry for us.
From the Paris Review, a small selection of Victor Hugo‘s four thousand drawings.
In 1970, a journalist named Joseph Epstein wrote an essay for Harper’s that came to a frightening conclusion: that Epstein would, if possible, “wish homosexuality off the face of the Earth.” The incendiary language inspired Merle Miller, a former editor at the magazine, to publish a call-to-arms, “What It Means to Be a Homosexual,” that became the basis of the book On Being Different. Emily Greenhouse puts the essay in context at Page-Turner.