This week in the New Yorker Jane Hu analyzes the “dispassionate first-person narrators” prominent in works by English-speaking Asian authors and questions whether that makes it easier to identify with the narrator. She uses Chemistry by NBA 5 under 35 honoree Weike Wang as an example along with other recent works. “Against this tradition, there is, perhaps, another emerging, of Asian-Anglophone writers who both play with and thus begin to undo these tropes of Asian impersonality. The novels by Ishiguro, Park, Lin, and Wang all feature first-person narrators who keep their distance—actively denying readers direct interior access. This is true, it’s important to note, even when the characters they write are not themselves Asian.”
Over at the Masters Review, Marjorie Sandor writes about the uncanny in literature and film, the origins of the word, and psychology. “Uncanny. Look it up in a standard collegiate dictionary, and you’ll get a brief, unhelpful definition. Seemingly supernatural. Mysterious. [orig. Sc & N. Engl.]. But the slippage has already begun. Seemingly.”
E. B. White is one of those writers you are liable to meet again and again in the course of a reading life, each time wearing a different expression. To children, he is the author of Charlotte’s Web; to college students, he is half of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Later on, he helped define the voice of the early New Yorker. Now all those Whites have been brought together in the pages of In the Words of E. B. White: Quotations from America’s Most Companionable of Writers, an anthology of quotations edited by his granddaughter Martha White.
It’s a big week for fans of literary fiction, with new books by a pair of heavyweights: Generosity by Richard Powers and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. There’s also a new (and massive) collection of stories from Lydia Davis. Nick Horby’s newest, Juliet, Naked is out. Finally, Bukowski fans may be pleased to find a new book of never-before-collected poems, and R. Crumb fans have no doubt been waiting for his Book of Genesis to hit shelves.
Missed the LA Times Festival of Books this weekend? The paper has some great short pieces on the panels that took place, including this one on an event called “Whimsical Visions, ” in which rising star Etgar Keret imagined Wikipedia as written by future squids.
“The first sentence, itself described as a ‘decoy for attention’ in a 1930 story on the new art, is a lure within a lure, created in a new economy increasingly predicated on commercial diversification and instant appeal, in a book market that had never been so populated.” Electric Lit takes us through the history of the novel’s first sentence. Pair with our essay on the art of the opening sentence.