Victor Hugo, when asked about the other parts of Dante’s Divine Comedy that aren’t the widely-read Inferno, had this to say: “The human eye was not made to look upon so much light, and when the poem becomes happy, it becomes boring.” Ouch. Is this why so many of us haven’t even read Dante, despite his being a kind of cultural icon?
Jorge Louis Borges’s suggestions for the thirty-three books to begin his famed Library of Babel includes works by Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, and even Borges himself–and, maddeningly, no women. Nothing against Borges, but you may want to spend some time with our own slightly more diverse Year in Reading series for a bit more variety.
“Baldwin understood that if you are going to say something important about the world it is best if you try to say it beautifully. I don’t mean like picking flowers or writing on fancy stationery. I mean how you say it actually makes it a more meaningful piece of writing. I am going to push that further. It makes it a truer piece of writing. What you are saying is: ‘Can I make somebody feel this in a deeper way?’ That was what I was obsessed with.” Over at The Guardian, Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about the success of Between the World and Me and being inspired by his father. Pair with our own Sonya Chung’s essay on David Brooks and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Out this week: City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan; Ladivine by Marie NDiaye; These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson; The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps; and Whosoever Has Let a Minotaur Enter Them by Emily Carr. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.
From one muckracker to another: Thomas Frank on Mailer and Miami.Fear and Loathing at Build-a-Bear WorkshopThe folks at n+1 on Obama and the culture war reduxSarah, the book, nibbles at the edges of Amazon’s Top 10, sparking its own kind of culture war in the reviews section (scroll down)Can Palin! The Musical be far behind?A new tool for mapping bookstores, chain and indieFor Salvadoran novelist Horacio Castellanos Moya, politics are a genetic burdenFrank O’Hara…yeah, New York will do that to youJonathan Yardley on the venerable Elements of StyleDon’t blame me…I voted for Kodos