In the wake of her 2016 Presidential loss, Hillary Clinton’s best-selling book What Happened sparked the question: “Would you rather be president of the United States or a No. 1 best-selling author?” The Washington Post asked several authors including Cheryl Strayed, Erik Larson, and Joyce Carol Oates for their thoughts. See also our interview with Strayed from our archives.
Tired of reading Mark O’Connell’s articles in silence? Check out his two pieces in The Racket, the first of which features attached audio from the author himself, and the second features an embedded video with Sam Bungey, the publication’s editor. Consider Mark’s reading Exhibit B in the case for Irish Accents Improving Everything, which I brought forth last week.
What’s the best book Mary Roach has read recently? Tim Johnston’s first novel, Descent: “I read the last 30 pages in an airport, 10 feet from the gate, and did not notice the boarding announcements. I missed my flight for literature.” Bonus: Here’s Roach’s interview with The Millions from a couple of years back.
On Zadie Smith in the Guardian: The new novel arrived fully-formed: Zadie Smith woke up one morning, and On Beauty was all there, in her head. She wanted to write a long marriage – she’d just got married herself, was curious what 30 years of it would be like – and she had a plot. When she described it to her new husband, poet and novelist Nick Laird, however, he pointed out she was simply rewriting Howards End. But she has never been afraid of tribute, and [E.M.] Forster was a “first love”; she had a couple of serious wobbles but this did not put her off.The Guardian also gives the book a good review. On Beauty comes out September 13.Every once in a while I spot an interesting looking item in those ads at the top of the page. Today I saw one for Out of Eden: Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick. It looks like the sort of book you’d like if you like Jared Diamond’s books. It describes how different invasive species have managed to relocate to new parts of the globe.Tattoos and literature are becoming ever more enmeshed, it seems. Recent novels by Jill Ciment and John Irving dwell on tattoos, and now a Brooklyn writer, Shelley Jackson, “has been having volunteers tattooed with individual words of her 2,095-word short story (“Skin”) since 2003. Only 700 words remain to be tattooed.” Read about it here.Another online book-tracking and tagging application: Reader2
Valentine’s Day may be all about happy couples, but the most memorable love stories in literature are tales of doom, from Oedipus to Romeo and Juliet to the many dysfunctional partnerships that populate contemporary literature. The Guardian offers a literary lovers’ quiz for the lovelorn.
Wes Anderson’s latest movie sparked a minor literary revival after it came out that much of it was based on the works of Stefan Zweig. Jason Diamond argued that Zweig may finally be getting the due he deserves in America. At the LARB, Tara Isabella Burton reads the author’s collected stories.