“In the morning, before we left, we presented my aunt with a gift from Indonesia, a package of luwak, one of four in Bon’s duffel. Civet coffee? she said, bemused. We were already savoring cups of coffee at her table, brewed in her coffee press from Arabica beans of her own supply.” An excerpt from Year in Reading alumnus Viet Thanh Nguyen’s forthcoming novel appears in the new issue of Ploughshares.
Planning to attend this Saturday's National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.? The Washington Post has provided five sample itineraries. And for an entirely different, vicarious trip, revisit Mythili G. Rao's account of visiting the Jaipur Literature Festival a few years back: “To voice their disapproval of the circumstances of Salman Rushdie’s absence, four writers read from The Satanic Verses — a book that has been banned in India. They were advised to leave. What kind of real intellectual discussion could go on in a setting that had proved itself so hospitable to self-censorship?”
At Newsweek, Jeremy McCarter reviews The Cross of Redemption, a new anthology of James Baldwin’s previously uncollected essays and public letters: “At a time when serious people claim we live in a 'post-racial' society, the reappearance of Baldwin’s writing—insistent, accusatory, outraged—feels like a terrible family secret coming to light in an Ibsen play, or Banquo’s ghost showing up to spoil the party.”
Franzen fans: Freedom, the long-awaited follow-up to The Corrections is now available for pre-order. The specs: 576 pages, August 31st 2010. "Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s intensely realized characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time."
Since they got married and began working 33 years ago, Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear have translated around 30 works of Russian literature, from The Brothers Karamazov to Doctor Zhivago. Now their interview with the Paris Review is available online from the Literary Hub, and this seems as good a time as ever to bring up that constant debate: who's greater, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?
"And that might be the best way to understand Erdrich’s artistic project: as a celebration of beauty and a testament to the redemptive power of art — which, of course, includes storytelling." Rumaan Alam interviews Louise Erdrich about her illustrious writing career for Buzzfeed Reader. Erdrich's newest novel Future Home of the Living God was featured in our November Preview.