“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.
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, “Last Letter,” was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
Over at The Margins, Franny Choi, Ali Eteraz, and others respond to Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker poem, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” As they put it, “Trillin is part of the ‘we’ in his poem but it’s clear that Chinese and Chinese American people are not. Instead, invoking Yellow Peril fears, Trillin speaks of the threat food from ‘more provinces’ while ignoring that those provinces are home to people, too.”
Quartz has a roundup of the books Hillary Clinton borrowed from the State Department library during her time as Secretary of State, including a memoir, poetry, and a lot of non-fiction. Pair with our piece about what private libraries reveal about their readers.
At Page-Turner, Daphne Merkin reads Catherine Lacey’s Nobody Is Ever Missing, which follows the journey of a disenchanted New Yorker as she hitchhikes her way through New Zealand. The novel, Merkin writes, features what Leslie Jamison, in her recent essay collection, termed a “post-wounded woman.”