Out this week: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo; Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty; Caca Dolce by Chelsea Martin; The Surveyors by Mary Jo Salter; and The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
On August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Also, Franz Kafka went swimming. Moreover, the Metamorphosis author mentioned both events in his diary, writing simply and strangely that "Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon." Was this odd phrasing intentional or a sign of the author's self-absorption? In an article for Open Letters Monthly, Robert Minto reads all three volumes of Reiner Stach's new biography.
In a long investigation of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic essay, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” (PDF), Josh Roiland takes readers to church by pointing out exactly what’s so alluring about the piece, which “scholars often point to … as the origin of Gonzo Journalism.”
In Zadie Smith's introduction to the Writers Bloc series, she writes that the program sought essays "that were not only pious, charitable or analytical but also readable, engaging, exciting." The essays published by Guernica certainly meet this criteria. I particularly recommend Aleksandar Hemon's essay on first graders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It exists! The long-lost letter from Neal Cassady that inspired Jack Kerouac to write On the Road will be auctioned next month at Christies, ending an 18-month-long battle over its ownership and another 60-year-long battle over its existence. As Kerouac said, "It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves."