“She gathered books to display for attendees and discovered that inside the cover of one, ‘The Koran for Dummies,’ someone had written “lies cover to cover,” drawn a swastika and made a disparaging remark about the Prophet Muhammad.” The president of the American Library Association reports “startling increases” in 2016 of vandalism, including hateful messages, at libraries. The Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has begun formally tracking such incidents to determine whether the increase is “a blip or a trend.”
Last year, Laura van den Berg came out with a new book, The Isle of Youth, which Nathan Huffstutter reviewed for The Millions. On the Guernica blog, Dwyer Murphy interviews van den Berg, who talks about jacket photos, her first collection and whether a writer from Florida is part of the Southern tradition. (You could also read van den Berg’s Year in Reading entry.)
“Thinking about her life is like sifting ashes. You believe you see the clear outline of a message, but it inevitably disintegrates before you can be sure of its sense. The mantle of a ‘rediscovered writer’ has never settled firmly around [her] shoulders; she has a way of resisting the platitudes of remembering.” Michelle Dean on the writer Nella Larsen.
Forget the Dos Equis guy. John Fairfax was truly “the most interesting man in the world” and, if you don’t believe me, read this series of lines from his actual obituary: “At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate.”
At The Collagist, Kyle Beachy imagines the emperor Augustus saying to the poet Horace, “You and your kind are fucked!” “The Extent of Our Decline” is one of number of essays appearing in the collection I co-edited, The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, coming in March from Soft Skull.