What is the function of the art critic, anyway? According to Barry Schwabsky at The Nation, it is not “making or breaking” an artist, but rather “ up perspectives without … belaboring them.” For the critically minded among you, here’s a Millions review of A.O. Scott’s new book Better Living Through Criticism.
Michele Filgate was so terrified by Dave Eggers’s The Circle that she quit social media for a week and wrote about the experience for Salon. “I don’t want to become like Mae, sacrificing real-life friendships for the allure of the screen. I want to be aware of the world around me. I want to write about that world. I want to feel more alive, even if that means being lonelier in the process.” Pair with: our review of the novel.
“[L]overs of more experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives but it was comedy fans who scored the highest for relating to others.” A new study suggests that people who read books are nicer, reports The Independent. In our recent interview with author John Vaillant he wholly agreed. “Empathy is what gives you the access,” he told us. “I see the writer (fiction or nonfiction) as a kind of permeable membrane through which the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others can pass and manifest.”
Ladbrokes, the popular bookmaker, has correctly predicted the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature with “a 50 percent accuracy rate” over the past eight years. This remarkable record is noteworthy because the oddsmakers do not actually read any of the books, and they do not go about “forming an opinion about the relative merits of each author.” Instead, the folks responsible for each year’s odds “appl[y] a numerical value to things like industry chatter, an author’s nationality, historical precedent.” So, that in mind, how confident do you feel about Haruki Murakami’s chances?
New this week is Monica Ali’s “what if” novel about Princess Diana, Untold Story. Also out is Bright’s Passage, an effort, which readers appear to be taking seriously, by singer-songwriter Josh Ritter to cross over into literary fiction. Finally, short story master Bobbie Ann Mason has a new novel out, The Girl in the Blue Beret.
“All over the country research libraries are canceling subscriptions to academic journals,” notes Robert Darnton, “because they are caught between decreasing budgets and increasing costs. The logic of the bottom line is inescapable, but there is a higher logic that deserves consideration—namely, that the public should have access to knowledge produced with public funds.”
Happy Halloween! At the New Yorker, the winners of the dress your pet as a literary character contest. Don’t miss the honorable mentions (I’m partial to the feline Moby Dick).
In anticipation of their 30 Below Story Contest, Narrative Magazine is highlighting work published on their site by writers under 30. Today my story, “I am the Lion Now,” has been added to the list.
After more than sixty years, Antonio di Benedetto has had his book Zama finally translated into English. The novel, which kicks off in the 1790s, depicts a Spanish administrator named Don Diego de Zama, whose viceroy dispatches him to a town in the scrublands of Paraguay. In the latest New Yorker, Benjamin Kunkel gives his take.