“America has always been built—and continues to be built—by those the establishment keeps invisible.” Public Books runs the sixth installment of its “An Engineer Reads a Novel” series, this time taking on Colson Whitehead‘s Underground Railroad and John Henry Days. We also recently reviewed the former, which has been blessed by both Oprah Winfrey and President Obama.
“Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.” An essay in the Boston Review argues the importance of Philip K. Dick‘s literature— where the real and fake intersect and collide — and the world we live in today. From our archive: on the pleasures of Dick’s sometimes awful prose.
According to the Times, The Guardian and other sources, Things Fall Apart author Chinua Achebe has died. Last October, we published a review of his final book, There Was a Country, which you might want to reread as a first step to considering his legacy. (You could also check out our piece on Things Fall Apart.)
Max Porter’s Death Is the Thing With Feathers is a bizarre, beautiful book. Over at The Literary Hub, he talks death, writing, and musical theater with Catherine Lacey. Porter’s book came highly recommended by Garth Risk Hallberg in his 2015 Year in Reading for The Millions.
Pacific Standards profiles Ken Layne who quietly started the popular quarterly literary magazine, Desert Oracle for a town of 8,000 people. Now it has gained far more readers than that as it highlights works related to the American desert. “The reason that the Oracle works is that it’s always trying to elicit that feeling, the awe and wonder that the desert reveals to you when you listen hard enough. Layne believes it’s not an accident that religious awakenings, UFO sightings, walkabouts, and other revelations occur in the desert. It’s a consequence of solitude, stark beauty, and the tenacious life that only the desert has.”