Nicole Chung interviews Amy Tan about her new memoir Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, one of the highlights is when Tan ponders being one of the ‘first’ authors that people name/read when they think of Asian-American literature. “But when [“The Joy Luck Club”] came out, it did feel like there were many expectations from all areas — not just in the Asian American community, but in Asian culture itself, and in any ethnic studies community. There were people who said ‘At last!’ and there were people who said ‘How dare she?’ […] I wanted to say: I’m not writing sociology, it just so happens this is what happened in my own family.”
As John Steinbeck’s classic Travels With Charley nears the half-century mark, a writer has retraced the author’s cross-country journey and come to the conclusion that the resulting book was full of inaccuracies and outright fabrications. The journalist Bill Steigerwald, whose article appears in the current issue of the libertarian quarterly Reason, says he didn’t set out to trash the Nobel laureate. “As a libertarian, I kind of liked the old guy,” Steigerwald tells the New York Times. “He liked guns; he liked property rights.”
“Unable to replicate the success of his first novel [The Loom of Youth],” writes Philip Quarles, “[Alec Waugh] did create a lasting impact by being credited with inventing the cocktail party when he shocked guests by serving, instead of afternoon tea, rum swizzles.”
“Literature is the record we have of the conversation between those of us now alive on earth and everyone who’s come before and will come after, the cumulative repository of humanity’s knowledge, wonder, curiosity, passion, rage, grief and delight. It’s as useless as a spun-sugar snowflake and as practical as a Swiss Army knife.” Dana Stevens and Adam Kirsch discuss whether literature should be considered useful.
Out this week: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson; Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi; White Nights in Split Town City by Annie DeWitt; War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans; How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings; Arrowood by Laura McHugh; and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
Recommended (Long) Reading: This lengthy excerpt from the latest book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. In it, Knausgaard is introduced to the literary world and stresses a great deal over his own claims to artistic merit: “Deep down, I was decent and proper, a goody-goody, and, I thought, perhaps that was also why I couldn’t write. I wasn’t wild enough, not artistic enough, in short, much too normal for my writing to take off. What had made me believe anything else? Oh, but this was the life-lie.”