“If only the interest he provokes were limited to his immediate surroundings, but, alas, it is not!… Still farther away, great mountains of data mining sum up, in zeroes and ones, the ultimate truth of his being.” KA Semënova updates Nabokov‘s short story “Signs and Sumbols” (and works by other famous Russian authors) for McSweeney’s, “teh internets” and the digital world.
My essay on Zadie Foster Franzenides and the current state of literary aesthetics is in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine.
“My process for writing is the same, regardless of form: I abandon my children, I become a horrible husband, and a half-assed teacher. That’s what it all has in common.” Adam Johnson interviewed for Tin House in conjunction with the release of his new collection of short stories, Fortune Smiles.
There’s an old story that states that Marcel Proust met James Joyce for five unremarkable minutes at a dinner party. Artistically significant though it may have been, it had less geopolitical significance than another famous meeting a hundred years earlier, in which Napoleon went out of his way to pay a visit to Goethe. As a new biography of the French emperor details, Napoleon couldn’t understand why Goethe admired Shakespeare.
In a piece for the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes about a new life of C. K. Scott Moncrieff, the first translator of Proust into English, and about the strange success and beauty his imperfect translation of Remembrance of Things Past achieved. The essay as a whole pairs well with both our own Bill Morris‘s essay against literary biography and Barclay Bram Shoemaker‘s Millions review of Mo Yan‘s Frog and “the trouble with translation.”
This week, the Ransom Center at UT-Austin opened up its archives of the works of J.M. Coetzee. Because the Nobel Prize winner is an alumnus, he says it’s “a privilege to have graduated from being a teaching assistant at The University of Texas to being one of the authors whose papers are conserved here.” (Fun fact: his starting salary was $2,300 a year.)