For The New Yorker Alex Ross describes the role Nebraska’s prairies played in Willa Cather’s writing, his encounters with Cather people, and how he became one himself. “From this roughshod Europe of the mind, Cather also emerged with a complex understanding of American identity. Her symphonic landscapes are inflected with myriad accents, cultures, personal narratives—all stored away in a prodigious memory. “
The word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek root nostos, meaning “return home,” and algos, or “pain.” It’s painful because we cannot return home again. Ramp up the nostalgia and check out this elegy to the old school book tour by Keith Lee Morris. If we’re talking book tours, here’s a piece on the distinct personality types sure to derail your literary event.
The latest effort from superstar translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky: Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is now on shelves. P & V’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories is in our Hall of Fame, and we interviewed the couple last year. Also out: Mark Twain’s long-embargoed Autobiography is now shipping; V.S. Naipaul’s The Masque of Africa; X’ed Out by graphic novel master Charles Burns; Avi Steinburg’s literary memoir Running the Books: Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian; and the odd literary project that is James Franco has a new collection out, Palo Alto
“Four years after first announcing the decision to open the prize to Americans, the Booker is virtually indistinguishable from its competitors. It is exactly what many feared it would become: corporate and daft.” Alex Shephard writing for The New Republic about why the Man Booker Prize isn’t interesting anymore. Still, should you want to know who’s shortlisted this year, here’s our roundup.
Sam Jordison asks us how Heller’s Catch-22 became a bestseller. “Yossarian’s kept a lasting grip on our collective psyche; he’s the ultimate moral rebel. To object to him would be to put yourself on the side of stuffed shirts, those who kill for profit and in the name of absurd patriotism.”