The Russian Ministry of Culture has come under fire recently after accusations were levied by the Russian Writers’ Union of some 500 books having been removed from libraries by authorities in the Komi republic–and another fifty allegedly incinerated in the process. Most of these were textbooks published with money from the Soros Fund, run by hedge fund billionaire and very vocal Putin critic George Soros. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture has denied the accusations, stating that “if any books are declared ‘extremist’ through a court proceeding, they are put into the special list of the ministry of justice and immediately withdrawn from libraries. However, even in this case books are not destroyed, they are just not lent out to readers.”
“He was surely the greatest literary editor there has ever been – brilliant, autocratic, endlessly curious and possessed of an extraordinary fund of knowledge about a vast range of subjects. True, he was not always easy to deal with, but when has the best ever been easy?” John Banville on the late Robert Silvers.
Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
Out this week: The Children Act by Ian McEwan; The Dog by Joseph O’Neill; Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas; Hold the Dark by William Giraldi; Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones; Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück; Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg; Happiness: Ten Years of n + 1; Neverhome by Laird Hunt; and Station Eleven by our own Emily St. John Mandel. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
Even if you’ve already seen the outstanding documentary Wordplay, you’ll still want to check out this Atlantic article on how Will Shortz makes his New York Times crossword puzzles.