Is it possible to share something with a “maybe don’t read this” tag attached? The literary internet has been buzzing today over the moral implications of stripping a writer (and, by association, a human) of their anonymity after this piece on Elena Ferrante was published in the NYRB. Read it or don’t read it, but definitely read her work.
The Naipaul Question, as Morgan Meis calls it, is simple: is V.S. Naipaul too offensive to be taken seriously? His recent biography includes scenes of abuse and moments of straightforward racism. But Meis thinks the issue is more complicated than whether Naipaul is a monster — the author is, in his phrasing, too “protean” to be pinned down.
“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.”
Máirtín Ó Cadhain is probably the most famous Irish writer you haven’t heard of, if only because he wrote all his masterworks in Irish rather than English. His best novel, Cre na Cille, has a simple and arresting premise: a town in Connemara has a graveyard in which the dead can speak. In The Guardian, Kevin Barry (who we interviewed) reads the novel for the first time.
Today in things you might like to read about animals: Some birds, apparently, not only mourn their dead but even hold funeral services. And while it’s widely known that the internet is made of cats, Wired dug a little deeper and tried to uncover the root of our collective feline fixation.
This might come in handy if you’re trying to escape a bad review, or even avoid hanging out with your family. A team of physicists has developed a theory for “how to cloak a region of space from the quantum world, thereby shielding it from reality itself.” Take that, Harry Potter.
Patrick Reardon looks at 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for the Chicago Tribune, and decides he wants to add his own favorites. Check out his eclectic list at the end of the piece. (thanks Steve)Maud mentioned off-hand that she abandons 95% of the books she starts before page 50. Sandra posted that this was “quite a failure rate,” and Maud responds in the comments that in this case she was “pining for a very specific kind of manic reading experience that happens for me maybe ten times a year now rather than every few days, as it did when I was a child.”Dogbert writes a book: “It’s part fake autobiography and part plagiarism” (via H2O)Pinky is about to start an MFA program at Pitt. The reading list looks excellent.Harper Lee will have an item in O of all places. According to the AP story, “a letter for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine on how she became a reader as a child in a rural, Depression-era Alabama town.” It’s for the July “special summer reading issue.”