“I couldn’t put the books down. Now that so many of us complain of diminished attention spans— our own as well as our companions’—it’s worth asking what has made millions of readers willing to suspend their disbelief—to suspend their selves—for thousands of pages.” Why have so many people gone gaga for Ferrante and Knausgaard? We have our own theories as well.
“The terrible thing is that the reality behind these words depends ultimately on what the human being (meaning every single one of us) believes to be real. The terrible thing is that the reality behind all these words depends on choices one has got to make, for ever and ever and ever, every day.” James Baldwin on the artist’s struggle for “integrity.” Here’s a bonus piece from The Millions on Baldwin, race, and fatherhood.
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.
Patrick Bateman as internet troll? I could see it. Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho, stopped by Town and Country to muse over how an early-twentieth century Patrick Bateman might behave a bit differently: “I check in with Patrick every now and then—as with this article you’re reading—but he has been living his own life for some time now, and I rarely feel as if I have guardianship over him, or any right to tell him where he would or would not be today, decades after his birth.”
“A coroner’s pronouncement of suicide (felo da se) resulted in forfeiture of the deceased’s goods and property to the state, often leaving any surviving relatives destitute. So the increasingly common verdict of temporary insanity (non compos mentis) may suggest a change in how people understood the act of self-destruction: no longer construed as a demonic temptation, it came instead to be viewed as a symptom of lunacy.” On the prevalence of suicide in eighteenth-century English literature.