The winners of the 2017 Kirkus Prize have been announced: Lesley Nneka Arimah‘s What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky for fiction; Jack E. Davis‘s The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea for non-fiction; and Cherie Dimaline‘s The Marrow Thieves for young reader’s literature. See also: Arimah’s short story collection was on our 2017 Great Book Preview.
“The first section of the book inevitably ends up taking on a Rashomon-ic quality, as Sotatsu’s father, mother, brother and sister all get their say about what transpired during his time in prison, along with a prison guard who observed him. But [Jesse] Ball doesn’t let them fall into the he said-she said realm of one-note characters — these are fully fleshed-out people, whose thoughts, emotions and agendas are as real (and sometimes as contradictory) as your own.” On Silence Once Begun.
"I didn’t really understand what reading was for. If I wanted a story, the thing to do was to get my grandmother to read it to me. Then listening to her voice, her story-reading voice which always sounded a little incredulous, marvelling, yet full of faith, bravely insistent, and watching her face, its meaningful and utterly familiar expressions—lifted eyebrows, ominously sinking chin, brisk little nods of agreement when, as sometimes happened, a character said something sensible—then I would feel the story grow into life and exist by itself, so that it hardly seemed to me that she was reading it out of a book at all; it was something she had created herself, out of thin air... But one summer I had the whooping-cough, and afterwards I could not go swimming or jump off the beams in the barn or boss my little brother, because by that time he had the whooping-cough himself. My grandmother was off somewhere, visiting other cousins. So I swung on my swing until I got dizzy, and then for no reason in particular I took the Child’s History out of the bookcase in the front room, and sat down on the floor and started to read." Alice Munro writes about A Child's History of England, the first book she ever read.
Most institutions that become an essential part of a local culture build up a collection of curios over the years. They collect as much evidence as they can of their proximity to major events. At the New York Public Library, for example, you can find a letter opener whose handle is made from the paw of Charles Dickens’s dead cat. (h/t The Paris Review Daily)
Should you go to grad school? Should you not go to grad school? Should you stop reading trend pieces on going to graduate school?
A couple weeks ago, Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll argued in a Salon piece that David Foster Wallace, who wrote an essay about the television and irony back in the early ‘90s, presciently diagnosed the danger of snark in our own age. Now Peter Finocchiaro, a senior editor at Salon, argues instead that we need irony more than we ever have. You could also read A-J Aronstein’s notes from the DFW Symposium.
In the wake of her 2016 Presidential loss, Hillary Clinton's best-selling book What Happened sparked the question: "Would you rather be president of the United States or a No. 1 best-selling author?" The Washington Post asked several authors including Cheryl Strayed, Erik Larson, and Joyce Carol Oates for their thoughts. See also our interview with Strayed from our archives.