“In the dark comes spiders out of art and first I’m sleuthed away. Measuring up the vying worlds. Meandering into the emphasised words but under neat speeches are oceanous platitudes and so I slide and slide.” An exclusive excerpt from Year in Reading alumna Eimear McBride’s new novel, The Lesser Bohemians, in The Times Literary Supplement.
In 1913, four years before the Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II made the now-baffling claim that a writer named Teffi was the only major Russian writer. At the time, however, his endorsement made sense, because everybody in Russia, from royalty on down, read Teffi’s work and “delighted” in it. Until the revolution, at which point she was consigned to oblivion. William Grimes writes about a new collection of her stories.
“Literature is the record we have of the conversation between those of us now alive on earth and everyone who’s come before and will come after, the cumulative repository of humanity’s knowledge, wonder, curiosity, passion, rage, grief and delight. It’s as useless as a spun-sugar snowflake and as practical as a Swiss Army knife.” Dana Stevens and Adam Kirsch discuss whether literature should be considered useful.
You may have heard that Jess Row has a new book on shelves. The plot follows a man who undergoes a surgical procedure to change his race. In an interview at Guernica, the author talks to Grace Bello about writing and race, teaching in Hong Kong and what it means to grow up in Baltimore. You could also read the author’s Year in Reading entry.
During the Cold War, the CIA became entrenched in cultural life through an organization named, ironically enough, the Congress for Cultural Freedom. In order to fight communism, they funded socialist artists. The Awl has compiled a list of literary journals, including the Kenyon Review and The Paris Review, that were once supported by the CIA.