Man Booker judge Colin Thubron expressed frustration with gushing book blurbs, which he says “almost blackmail” readers: “you’re either intellectually or morally incompetent if you don’t love this book or you’ve failed if you haven’t understood it.” Our own Bill Morris tackled the age old question—”To Blurb or not Blurb”—a few years ago.
If you were like this writer when you were growing up, you knew -- nay, believed -- that Sonic the Hedgehog was better than Mario, full stop. At The Verge, Trent Volbe explains the Blue Blur’s greatness, including a sample from the Green Hill Zone soundtrack to illustrate the games’ sick bass grooves.
The New York Times interviews Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and Tracy K. Smith, poet laureate of the United States for National Poetry Month. They discuss black history, bringing poetry to the central and rural parts of the country and to those who are incarcerated and why poetry isn't as popular among adults. "Listening to music and lyrics and watching movies, I think, uses a lot of the same muscles we use in reading and experiencing poetry — and yet we somehow forget that we have those when it comes to sitting down with a book of poems." It's a delight, happy Saturday!
The Scottish poet Robert Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” might well be the most famous ode to a food product in the English canon. At The Paris Review Daily, Sadie Stein celebrates Burns's birthday by reflecting on the poem, which starts off by describing haggis as the “chieftain of the pudding race.”
In every country except France, the copyright for The Little Prince expired at the end of last year, which explains why Turkish publishers chose the first two weeks of January to publish a huge number of new translations of the book. At the LRB blog, Millions contributor Kaya Genc writes about the flood of new editions, remarking on the significance of a passage about a Turkish astronomer.
"Fiction is messier. Essay is, for me, an attempt at a kind of clarity. I have a very messy and chaotic mind, but when I’m writing an essay I find I can exert a bit more control over it.” The The Guardian published a Q&A with Zadie Smith with questions from fellow authors, politicians, and fans. Smith's upcoming essay collection, Feel Free, is featured in the first half of our 2018 Great Book Preview.
The finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced a few days ago, and it looks like the reactionaries may have struck another blow. A group which calls itself "The Sad Puppies" has been stirring up political controversy at the Hugos for a few years now. Founded in 2013 by writer Larry Correia, who was highly critical of the Hugos for favoring what he believed were “academic” works that allegedly promote "left-leaning messages," the Puppies have since campaigned vigorously to have writers whose ideologies line up with their own make the final ballot.
Our humongous second-half preview will keep you busy planning your to-read list for the rest of the year, but there are some intriguing new books out this week too. Bonnie Jo Campbell's novel Once Upon a River is now out, as is Edie Meidav's Lola, California. (Don't miss the remarkable essay Meidav wrote for us recently.) Also new is the latest from Benjamin Black (John Banville's pen name), A Death in Summer, and Flip Flop Fly Ball, a collection of light-hearted and very clever baseball infographics from Craig Robinson (whose work also appears on his blog).