It doesn’t get much better than James Wood on Joy Williams: “Nothing is stranger (and funnier) in Williams’s work than her details. Like her forms, they only resemble conventional realist details, an atmosphere perhaps encouraged by her flat, functional sentences (“They danced. Sam had quite a bit to drink”). The details are frequently surreal, magical, hallucinogenic, delivered in a cool, dispassionate, routine manner.”
Many feared the permanent loss of thousands of precious manuscripts and relics after insurgents razed Timbuktu’s Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research. The Institute was home to over 30,000 manuscripts dating back to the 13th century. Or was it? In a fascinating report, Rukmini Callimachi details the extraordinary efforts of the some passionate locals that wound up saving much of the collection.
For the first time ever, this year’s National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” winners are all women. Congrats to Molly Antopol (The UnAmericans), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names, which was also just shortlisted for The Booker Prize), Amanda Coplin (The Orchardist), Daisy Hildyard (Hunters in the Snow), and Merritt Tierce (Love Me Back).
Now online: PEN World Voices video of Keith Gessen interviewing Vladimir Sorokin, author of the just-released Ice Trilogy and Day of the Oprichnik. I was a little nonplussed by the Times‘ decision to begin its profile of Sorokin with a discussion of his hair, but really…it is quite something. Come for the mane, stay for the acerbic insights.