Out this week: Normal by Warren Ellis; The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories; and The Best American Magazine Writing 2016. For more on these and other new titles, go read our latest fiction and nonfiction book previews.
Print out your playing cards and start sifting through the comment sections of negative book reviews. It’s a new game called “bad review bingo.” (inspired in part by the frothy commenters to our own Janet Potter’s blistering review of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.)
The Imperfectionists author and Year in Reading alum Tom Rachman has a new novel on shelves this week, as does Orson Scott Card. Also out: Eyrie by Tim Winton; O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn; So Much a Part of You by Polly Dugan; Stars Go Blue by Laura Pritchett; Third Rail by Rory Flynn; and Time of the Locust by Morowa Yejide.
Our intrepid AWP #LitBeat correspondent attended an offsite event called “Books Have Ruined Our Lives, Now We Want to Ruin Yours“
“We tether ourselves to others as a path not taken, a dream unfulfilled. A lesson unlearned, a responsibility unmet. We mourn idols as ourselves because even that unachieved road must end.” Paul Taunton has written a heartfelt Hazlitt essay on Frederick Exley, Frank Gifford, and passionate idolatry. Exley’s cult favorite A Fan’s Notes, published in 1988, is a fictional memoir that centers on a quasi-obsession with Gifford, who passed away earlier this week at the age of eighty-four.
“Eleven years later, the Atlantic Monthly editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, made a similar request to an obscure, retiring poet named Emily Dickinson who had written a letter asking if her verses ‘breathed.’ Her response was much like Melville’s, if typically elliptical: ‘Could you believe me—without? I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?'” The age-old problem: how writers deal with publicity.
You may have heard that E.L. Doctorow passed away last week. The Ragtime and Billy Bathgate author was known for his mastery of historical fiction. At The Guardian, Michael Chabon offers a tribute, arguing that Doctorow found a way out of the binary trap between postmodernism and realism.
We’ve heard a lot about “Cool Pope” Francis in the past few weeks. For a take on the Vatican that’s a bit different from the usual fare, check out this piece from the London Review of Books on the pontiff’s battle against corruption among the cardinals in Rome.