Paula Fox, celebrated novelist and winner of the 1983 National Book Award (among other honors), died this week. Contributing to our Year in Reading series two years ago, Parul Sehgal said she couldn’t stop rereading Desperate Characters, perhaps Fox’s most popular book for adults. “It’s really a wallop of a book,” Sehgal wrote. “A barbed portrait of a marriage, not to mention a brilliant take on gentrification, white fears of black and brown people, the hostile insularity of the nuclear family, and how power reproduces and how power conceals itself.” (Bonus: Dominic Smith wants to send a scene from that novel into space.)
At My Life and Thoughts, Elif Batuman–in delightfully Elifish style–describes her first book travails and unveils a preliminary sketch for the cover of her forthcoming first book The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.
The Longreads team has teamed up with Syracuse assistant professor Aileen Gallagher in order to “search for and share outstanding student work.” If you’ve read (or written) something fantastic this past school year, they encourage you to tag it #college #longreads on Twitter or Tumblr.
With the advent of e-readers, books on the subway are getting harder and harder to spot. It takes dedication to get a sense of what people are reading these days. At The Awl, Ben Dolnick sets out to catalogue a week’s worth of sightings, which included a man reading Cloud Atlas and The Stranger and a teenage girl reading Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. You could also read our own Nick Moran on the question of whether e-readers are really green.
So does literature really have the power to bring liberals and conservatives together? Probably not. Either way, this is still a fascinating study: “The ‘most startling result was this: it was conservative — not liberal — readers who are most active in producing this space of cultural compromise.’ Basically, within this sample size, conservative readers tended to exude more generous praise for ‘bridge books’ and did so with a vernacular considered to be ‘less heated or emotional.’ Grammatically, they also expressed ‘more complex thoughts.'”