“To use the lingo of their era, these novels are square. The protagonists have names like Jane and Barbara; they are not the misfits of which much teen literature is made but instead fundamentally good girls who long to fit in, and usually do … Viewed through the lens of contemporary culture, and especially contemporary teen lit, these girls should be boring and shallow. But Beverly Cleary’s supposedly ordinary girls are complex: resentful of their mothers one moment and sympathetic toward them the next, willing to do anything for one special boy but indignant when they’re taken for granted.” On the unexpectedly complex nature of Beverly Cleary’s boring protagonists with Ruth Graham at Slate.
“This poem fosters reading again and again, because interpretation is always reaching its limits: eventually, one runs up against a secret gesture to which the only response is either to acknowledge that there is some other conscious being that could make or decipher it, or to fantasize the being that could.” A long, worthwhile review of R.F. Langley’s Complete Poems from 3:AM Magazine.
Perhaps inspired by the news, first reported a few years ago, that mad scientists in the Indian army plan to weaponize superhot chilis, Lauren Collins ventures bravely into the world of extreme heat. As a warning to readers who fancy themselves tough, she quotes a doctor who makes clear that these peppers aren’t just hot — they’re lethal.
Friend of The Millions, proprietor of Pinky’s Paperhaus, and all around great gal Carolyn Kellogg has landed at the LA Times book blog Jacket Copy. We have little doubt that she’ll do great things there.Following Heath Ledger’s untimely death, BBC looks at the myriad ways in which Hollywood has dealt with losing an actor mid-production, dating back to 1937 “when Jean Harlow died, aged 26, during the making of Saratoga. With filming 90% complete, a lookalike and two Harlow sound-a-likes (voice doubles) took up where the star left off.”Bookride is back with an intriguing look at the collectors’ market for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude. Don’t miss this tidbit: “By the way sending books to authors for signing is something of a gamble – Thomas Hardy used to keep all the books sent to him neatly shelved in a spare room.”Speaking of Garcia Marquez, Edith Grossman, the translator who has shaped the Latin American canon for English speakers over the last few decades, is profiled in bookforum.The New Republic offers the story behind the controversial New York Times John McCain/lobbyist story.The Morning News returns with its third annual Tournament of Books. Sadly, there will be no Bloggers’ Pool this year (despite our being eager to participate again), but Coudal Partners is sponsoring a betting pool for charity this year. As of this writing, On Chesil Beach and Run have had the most money thrown their way.A cartoon drawn on the pages of Moby DickAnd finally, McSweeney’s offers up some sweet Ashton Kutcher fan fiction.
Out this week: The Immortal Evening by Stanley Plumly; Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura; Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll; Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite; Splitting an Order by the former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser; Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère; and The Heart Is Strange by John Berryman, which I wrote about as part of our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
Most writers, unless they’re lucky enough to have an ideal place in which to work, make do with the best space available. For Colum McCann’s father, the shed in his backyard, which “always smelled damp inside, as if the rain rose up out of the carpet,” sufficed for the fiction he wrote after coming home from work. At Page-Turner, the National Book Award winner and Year in Reading alum remembers his father’s retreat.
Following the example of Flaubert, whose Dictionary of Received Ideas compiled the clichés of its day, Teju Cole set out on Monday to record his own clichés on Twitter. At Page-Turner, he sums up his experiment in a blog post. (You may recall that this is not the first time Cole has won acclaim for his Twitter account.)
In the latest entry in By Heart, which I’ve written about before, Thirty Girls author Susan Minot explains why she prefers to read multiple books at once instead of reading through single books from start to finish. Her reasoning? Books are “worlds to dip in and out of, and my relationship to them is continually deepening and evolving.”