It exists! The long-lost letter from Neal Cassady that inspired Jack Kerouac to write On the Road will be auctioned next month at Christies, ending an 18-month-long battle over its ownership and another 60-year-long battle over its existence. As Kerouac said, “It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.”
James Gleick talks to one of the software engineers behind autocorrect, that “impish god” responsible for turning our ids to I’ds and moviestars to Natalie Portmanteaus. In response, Jen Doll wonders whether we love to hate autocorrect “because when it messes up we’re happily reminded that phones and computers are not actually smarter than people.”
Recommended Reading: Jesse Eisenberg’s stream of conscious New Yorker short story, “A Short Story Written With Thought-to-Text Technology.” “When he was younger he used to stay late after school on Fridays and come in early on Mondays, a pattern his mother referred to with equal parts admiration and disdain as ‘studying overtime.’ Jesus, I’ve written another loser.”
Sir Frank Kermode, widely acclaimed as Britain’s foremost literary critic, died yesterday in Cambridge at the age of 90. Guardian recalls highlights of his eminent career, including inspiring the founding of The London Review of Books, publishing books ranging from works on Spenser and Donne to last year’s Concerning EM Forster, and being an acclaimed reviewer: Philip Roth admitted that although he dislikes reading reviews, “if Frank Kermode reviewed my book I would read it.”
Next week, the folks at Literary Death Match are bringing literature into the third dimension by staging “LDM TV: The Pilot.” Two shows consisting of four readers apiece will take place in Los Angeles, and performances will be judged by a killer lineup including such notables as Susan Orlean, Michael C. Hall, Moby and Tig Notaro. Full event details can be found here. For what it’s worth, I still rank Matt Gajewski’s LDM performance as my all-time favorite, so Beau Sia, Simon Rich, Daniel Alarcón and company have their work cut out for them.
New this week: Karen Russell’s new collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove; buzzed-about thriller The Dinner by Herman Koch; Harvest by Jim Crace; Fight Song by Joshua Mohr; the final novel of the late Maeve Binchy, A Week in Winter; Tara Conklin’s debut The House Girl; and James Lasdun’s non-fiction Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked.