Catapult has a new anonymous column in which a little bird called Magpie collects nice things that happen each week.
Here are the first lines of the new David Mitchell novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, forthcoming in July: “‘Miss Kawasemi?’ Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. ‘Can you hear me?’ In the rice paddy beyond the garden, a cacophony of frogs detonates. Orito dabs the concubine’s sweat-drenched face with a damp cloth.”
So does literature really have the power to bring liberals and conservatives together? Probably not. Either way, this is still a fascinating study: “The ‘most startling result was this: it was conservative — not liberal — readers who are most active in producing this space of cultural compromise.’ Basically, within this sample size, conservative readers tended to exude more generous praise for ‘bridge books’ and did so with a vernacular considered to be ‘less heated or emotional.’ Grammatically, they also expressed ‘more complex thoughts.'”
When your father shows you The Wrath of Khan at a young age, you develop an appreciation for the late Leonard Nimoy, whose death scene as Spock in that film is among his most famous performances. For Jen Girdish, that appreciation led to this essay, which reflects on Nimoy, her father’s own death and the onetime ubiquity of VHS tapes.
There’s been an incredible amount of both excitement and controversy ever since Harper Lee‘s publisher announced the upcoming publication of Go Set a Watchman, the reclusive author’s second novel. But in a piece for Ploughshares Cathe Shubert wonders “Why not marvel at what all this hullabaloo in the news really signifies: that books still matter, deeply, to the American public–especially books that spark dialogue about interracial relations, justice, and, as Atticus would say, walking in another person’s shoes.”