“I just didn’t see the textual evidence for it. If Mark Twain wanted to make somebody black, he would make them black. He was not shy about dealing with matters of race.” For The New Yorker, Mythili G. Rao on the complicated backstory to the upcoming publication of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, a “new” children’s book by Mark Twain. See also: our consideration of Twain’s self-deprecating travelogue The Innocents Abroad.
Richard Adams might be the only prominent author to make his name with a novel in which all of the main characters were rabbits. In The Guardian, he talks with Alison Flood about his classic Watership Down, explaining that he first came up with the plot while telling his children a story on a car ride.
“We have a customer who eats Bibles. She’s very nice, but she will walk up to a section, rip out a page, and eat it. She much prefers Catholic versions—she won’t touch King James Bibles.” This interview with the owner of Brattle Book Shop in Boston illustrates the peculiar idiosyncrasies of daily bookstore life. For all you romantics out there, here is a love letter to the brick-and-mortar bookstore.
"Whatever the facts of her life – whether she turned out to be an ancient man living in the Icelandic interior or a woman waiting tables at a Texan diner – Ferrante writes in an autobiographical mode. That is fuel for the truthers, a sort of literary ankle-flashing. But it is also good cover for another motive: a very contemporary form of envy of another’s autonomous space and their creativity, a rage that while they give us their work, they will not also give us their person." On a new collection of Elena Ferrante's letters, interviews and short pieces.
After thirty years, Larry Kramer has finished his novel The American People, which he prefers to consider a new form of nonfiction. In the novel, a narrator based largely on Kramer writes a historical expose, also titled The American People, in which numerous American icons are described as having been gay. As Kramer says, he wrote the book in part out of a feeling that gay people are excluded from history books.
New this week: The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James; B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J.C. Hallman; The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya; The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; and The Discreet Hero by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.