Sam Jordison asks us how Heller’s Catch-22 became a bestseller. “Yossarian’s kept a lasting grip on our collective psyche; he’s the ultimate moral rebel. To object to him would be to put yourself on the side of stuffed shirts, those who kill for profit and in the name of absurd patriotism.”
The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, the first book published in English, recently sold at auction for almost 2 million dollars.
I didn’t expect to find a Chinese poem more ornate than Su Hui’s palindromic, pre-oulipan “Xuanji Tu,” but apparently I underestimated myself. Here’s “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den,” a 92-character poem by Yuen Ren Chao which relies on the tonal variations of a single sound (shi) to tell the story of a “lion addict” with a taste for big cats. For a really crazy experience, I recommend listening to the poem being read aloud.
Good news! According to Vinson Cunningham’s new essay in The New Yorker, beauty merely “masks and perfumes … it freezes moral categories in place,” whereas ugliness, on the other hand, “is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.” Wait, is that good news? Bonus: Vinson wrote a Year in Reading piece for us.