Haven’t heard of Teffi? You can blame that one on the Bolsheviks. The early-20th-century Russian poet, playwright and journalist, whose fans included (oddly enough) both Vladimir Lenin and Tsar Nikolai, had to flee a Moscow in turmoil to avoid persecution as a dissident. Now, several publishers are reprinting her memoir of exile, for which The New Statesman has details and a short biography.
New this week are Mark Haddon’s The Red House, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, John Lanchester’s Capital, and a collection of essays from Colm Tóibín, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families. Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table is now out in paperback.
If his new novel Against the Country is any indication, Ben Metcalf gets his best inspiration from the worst of rural America. In the book, which features a panoply of awful crimes and obscenities, Metcalf rides roughshod over the notion of the rural idyll. In Bookforum, onetime Millions staffer Emily Colette Wilkinson reviews the novel, calling it “a gut-busting knee slapper” in spite of its glut of macabre scenes.
It’s hard to get a better glimpse of the postwar white male American writer than the essays of William Styron. In My Generation, a new book of collected nonfiction, Styron writes about a raft of his contemporaries, including but not limited to Philip Roth, James Baldwin and Truman Capote. In the NYT, Charles Johnson reviews the collection. You could also read Alexander Nazaryan on a book by Styron’s daughter.
“All poems of public grief are private poems first,” writes Mark Doty in his evaluation of Wisława Szymborska’s poem, “Photograph from September 11th.” Indeed, what Doty learned “over the course of those dozen years, was that the words one hammers out in private, in order to attempt some kind of sense, may end up being used by people in ways you could have never anticipated.”