New this week: The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine; The Mortifications by Derek Palacio; Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple; The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke; The Trespasser by Tana French; The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang; and Nicotine by Nell Zink. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
“I’ve always referred to it as a troubled project in the sense that I’m trying to tell stories about people who not are here in a way to tell their own stories. I’m trying to speak about an environment I knew well, but I’m aware that I’m dealing with very dark material. I’m pointing out the irony of what we would wish for ourselves and what actually ends up happening.” Teju Cole on tweeting American drone strikes.
“Our great poet forever has one foot on Mount Parnassus and the other in the rue Quincampoix,” the Wall Street of eighteenth-century Paris. On how Voltaire outsmarted one of the earliest lotteries and made a fortune. Also check out how Goethe became an amateur auction theorist.
How do you describe the life and times of John Horne Burns? He was in turn a military intelligence officer, a schoolteacher, a critical darling after he published The Gallery, a pariah after he published anything else, and a gay man in post-WWII America. In characteristic concision, Ernest Hemingway summed the whole thing up thusly: “There was a fellow who wrote a fine book and then a stinking book about a prep school, and then he just blew himself up.”
Columbia once moved its twenty-two miles of books by sending them down a really, really long slide. As The Paris Review documents, in 1934, the university stocked its then-new Butler Library with a slide that ran from Low Library to the new building. (No word on whether the slide is secretly used to this day.)