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.”
The Millions is thrilled to welcome Kirstin Butler as our new Social Media Manager. Kirstin got her start in books at the Harvard Book Store and has worked on projects for Slate, MTV Networks, and a variety of other outlets. She’s a writer with bylines at places like The Atlantic and The New Republic, and a novel is in the works. Find her online here, and of course, on The Millions' feeds.
This month, a Brentwood School archivist unearthed a two-page poem entitled "A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining.” The kicker? It was written by a 17-year-old Douglas Adams, nine years before he published The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Three thousand Russians volunteered to proofread “forty-six thousand eight hundred pages” of Leo Tolstoy’s writings over the course of fourteen days. Soon their efforts will be available online for all to see. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed is catching some heat for enlisting the services of unpaid Duolingo students in order to translate site content for Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese readers.
Here’s a fact that’s either very surprising or not surprising at all: Samuel Beckett didn’t want his letters to see the light of day. He once wrote to Barney Rosset that he didn’t care for “the ventilation of private documents.” Despite this disinclination, his third volume of letters comes out this week, and it includes, as detailed by John Banville in a review for The Irish Times, a letter in which Beckett asks that none of his plays be produced in Ireland. Pair with: our own Matt Seidel on Beckett’s "Echo’s Bones."