“Skipping or skimming parts of a narrative should not only be expected but encouraged, particularly if an author is writing without clarity or purpose or showing off. Life’s too short to slog through some smarty-pants attempt to demonstrate a mastery of mechanical engineering or botany.” Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes face off for The New York Times Bookends column about whether there are right and wrong ways to read a book.
“I’m fascinated by epigenetics. My father had polio that affected his left leg, and I walk with my left foot turned in for no good reason at all. I was attacked by a dog when I was ten, and both my daughters have an irrational fear of dogs. It makes a strange kind of sense.” Year in Reading alum Rebecca Makkai discusses Music for Wartime and her writing process with Christine Rice. We interviewed Makkai following the release of The Hundred-Year House.
We're all familiar with the Grimm-style fairy tales, with their evil stepmothers and imperiled princesses. But a new collection of 19th century Bavarian folk tales has been discovered, edited, and now released in English for the first time, and they're darker, dirtier, and involve more gender-bending than the Grimm tales. Salon talks with the tales' translator, Maria Tatar, about their history, importance, and "the surprising ways they upend our long-standing notions of the roles of heroes and heroines in some of Europe’s oldest and most popular stories."
“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”