Emily Smith writes on literary friendships throughout history at Ploughshares.
“If we are now relentlessly connected, every marginal identity gaining collective recognition, becoming assimilated, ever more rapidly? If that is where we stand, then something like a stubbornly solitary voice may be welcome, even necessary, telling us that what it means to be human—and what may keep us human—is to feel alone in a strange room, with our seclusion the thing that defines and can save us.” On bearing witness to the spectacle of aloneness and the fiction of empathy.
A big week for books: Zadie Smith’s NW is out (read the first lines), as is Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, a collection of essays penned while he fought cancer (our essay on Hitchens’ death) (his collection Arguably is out in paperback today). More new books: Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Umberto Eco’s essay collection Inventing the Enemy, Davy Rothbart’s essay collection My Heart Is an Idiot, Frederick Seidel’s poetry collection Nice Weather, documentarian Errol Morris’s A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, and the Navy Seal book about the bin Laden mission. Also, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides is now out in paperback (read Eugenides on the book’s genesis), as is Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winner The Swerve.
Last week, I wrote about Josh Weil and Mike Harvkey’s joint book tour, which sees the two driving a Prius across America to promote their latest novels. Now, in their latest dispatch, they reflect on the differences between writers like themselves and midcentury writers like Andre Dubus and Norman Mailer.
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.