“Kill ‘Em and Leave is [James] McBride’s own testament to [James] Brown’s philosophy. It’s a stunningly unorthodox book, indifferent to the conventions of biographical nonfiction … The book is a hybrid of forms, largely a telling of Brown’s life story and partly a telling of McBride’s search for that story, with digressions about the author’s own life, essayistic ruminations on Brown and his music, and free, looping riffs that have the energy of improvisation.” On James McBride’s unusual, unorthodox biography of the unusual, unorthodox James Brown.
Growing up, Judy Bolton-Fasman watched her mother study Don Quixote, propping the book up on their kitchen counter while studying for her Master’s in Spanish literature. Her mother was a native speaker, but Cervantes was still a tough writer to figure out, especially if you were reading his work while trying to cook dinner in the background. The author looks back on her mother’s education in a Saturday Essay for The Rumpus.
Are you familiar with Spook magazine founded and edited by Jason Parham? It focuses on promoting artists of color and their work. This month the fiction issue, was released and it features work from beloved writers (and Year in Reading alums!) Junot Diaz, Angela Flournoy, and Vinson Cunningham. Along with YiR favorite Justin Torres. You can buy it here! Perfect read for the snowy weekend.
Writing for n+1’s City by City series, Moira Donegan remarks on the “self-defeating contradictions” of working at a nonprofit in New Orleans. It’s a town, she writes, where most arrive to either “perform charity or to party,” and where, she feels, “many of the people who … come to help the city [are] also hurting it.” In certain ways, the piece can be read as being in conversation with Duncan Murrell’s 2012 essay for Oxford American about authenticity, preservation, posterity, and the Big Easy.
"Perhaps this is why King favors prose—many of his novels and stories confront terror so enormous it transcends poetic language." In Poetry Foundation, an essay about Stephen King's little known literary habit: writing poetry. Pair with: our editor Lydia Kiesling on discovering America through King's novels.
"A book critic working today must contend with a world in which more diverse voices are heard and the traditional gatekeepers have less power to enforce conformity." LitHub interviewed Kate Tuttle, the president of the National Book Critics Circle, about literary criticism. Read our own Emily St. John Mandel on bad reviews.