Out this week: The Windfall by Diksha Basu; Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller; The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen; River Under the Road by Scott Spencer; The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon; and Modern Gods by Nick Laird. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller looks at what this year’s bestseller list tells us about 2017. One of her conclusions, “2017 was the year that the very concept of a best-seller became even more dubious.” After reading her analysis, check out our Year in Reading lists, whose authors found joy in reading and viewed it as one of the few good things of this year, even if the bestsellers of the year didn’t reflect those feelings.
Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.
Since we just can’t seem to get enough of the Shakespeare infographics, here’s another from Electric Literature. This time, it’s the characters and their web of interactions that gets the colorful, 21st century treatment. Last time, it was deaths. Forsooth, at least you probably won’t have to wait long for another one.
Nabokov once described himself “as American as April in Arizona,” which is an odd thing to call yourself when you’re a lepidopterist Russian expat. In Nabokov in America, Robert Roper explores why Nabokov felt he was so American, and how his journey to that identity influenced his writing of Lolita. At The Literary Review, Ian Sansom reviews Roper’s book.
“The short story is an odd form, forever dying out or undergoing a revival, impossible to define, sometimes seeming to be united by being nothing more than a text which happens to occupy around thirty pages or less: novels for people who can’t be arsed reading novels. Yet the best stories in both of these books show what the form is capable of: the world reflected in a puddle, the light gleaming for an instant, fireflies.” C.D. Rose reviews New American Stories, edited by Ben Marcus, for 3:AM Magazine.
“Emily Brontë teaches us that fiction is not defined by what an author has done, but what an author has felt. To write is often to observe, not necessarily to experience. It is possible to be strong, independent, and still be at home; there is nothing limiting or weak about the ‘domestic’ life. Daily life is not to be avoided—in fact, it can be our most fruitful source of truth.” These and other helpful life lessons from the Brontë sisters over at The Daily Beast. How did the sisters even get their start as writers, anyway?