If you can’t sit through a 20-minute reading, this one’s for you. Even Dostoevsky hated literary readings. As his narrator puts it, “Generally I have observed that at a light, public literary reading, even the biggest genius cannot occupy the public with himself for more than 20 minutes with impunity.” Pair with this Millions essay on the lively and maybe lost art of the literary reading.
In 1952, John Steinbeck wrote that Al Capp, the cartoonist and Lil’ Abner creator, might well have been the best writer working in the world at the time. In the Times, Andy Webster reviews a new biography of Capp, which reveals that underneath it all lay “a toxic chip on his shoulder.”
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.
Out this week: The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique; Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann; High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire; The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai; Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch; A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor; The Confessions of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga; Don’t Try to Find Me by Holly Brown; The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe; Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco; Road Ends by Mary Lawson; and our own Edan Lepucki’s California (which you may have seen on Colbert). For more, go read our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
“When Michael reads in one of the society columns that are hilariously reprinted here, misspellings and all, that Astrid’s jewels aren’t blingy enough, he flies into a fury of inadequacy. This leads him to try to buy one of Singapore’s rarest architectural masterpieces and turn its ground floor into a museum for his car collection, which includes a car from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; fortunately, his offer is turned down.” On Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend.