“Familiar, well-behaved stories are dressed in nice book covers and sent to our bookstores; from there they march to our homes in an orderly manner.” On Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and how publishing understands the immigrant narrative. Pair with our review of Adichie’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
We have returned from Los Angeles, where it was so sunny and warm, to Chicago, where it is so cloudy and cold. It actually rained briefly one of the days we were in LA, and we thought it was hilarious that everyone kept apologizing for it. If people apologized for bad weather in Chicago, nobody would have time to talk about anything else. Anyway, I’ve spent the day catching up on e-mails, RSS feeds, blogs and the like, and I thought I’d share the links that caught my eye.Mad Max Perkins, editor and secret-identity blogger, returned from a long hiatus to reveal the title of the novel that he had gotten so excited about editing back when he was a regular blogger. The novel is Dope by Sara Gran, and I have to admit, I’m very intrigued. In the process, Perkins revealed himself to be none other than Dan Conaway of Penguin Putnam, as Sarah at GalleyCat explains.At BookLust, a gorgeous sculpture constructed out of books.Hikikomori, Japan’s epidemic of shut ins. In the New York Times.An oddly terrifying look at all the psychological engineering that goes on in reality shows: The Omarosa Experiment at The Morning News.Hilarious and informative: Outrageous firsts in television history.Jonathan Yardley’s review of Michael D’Antonio’s Hershey gives an interesting snapshot of the chocolate magnate’s life.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better — h/t Dan Farrely]
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
David Denby wonders: After nearly 150 years have passed since its initial publication and countless imitators have blunted its artistic radicalism does Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground still pack a punch? For more contemporary readings of Dostoevsky, see Rob Goodman’s recent article on forensics, The Brothers Karamazov and the death of the courtroom drama.