“Our great poet forever has one foot on Mount Parnassus and the other in the rue Quincampoix,” the Wall Street of eighteenth-century Paris. On how Voltaire outsmarted one of the earliest lotteries and made a fortune. Also check out how Goethe became an amateur auction theorist.
What is the price of diversity? Colleen Muir asks this question at The Rumpus in relation to the hefty cost of writers’ conferences. A piece of her essay: “I’m not claiming that Breadloaf [sic] lacks for talent, or that its writers don’t have interesting things to say. But it certainly lacks for diversity in at least one significant way, because most attendees share a privileged experience of the world.” Pair with Gail Gauthier’s essay on working in the kitchen crew at Bread Loaf.
We might mock romance readers for how much Kleenex they go through, but they’re more emotionally perceptive than others. A new study on the interpersonal sensitivity of readers found that romance readers are better at discerning facial cues and emotion than other literati. But don’t worry if you aren’t a Nicholas Sparks fan; reading any genre makes you more empathetic, as we’ve reported on before.
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.
Have you taken advantage of NYRB Classics’ Winter Sale yet? A whole bunch of their books are listed with 50% discounts! Why not check out The Radiance of the King, which was recommended this past Year in Reading by Deborah Eisenberg? (And also recommended by Junot Díaz back in our 2007 edition of the series, too.)