Anwen Crawford reflects on newly published letters from Sylvia Plath; “The belief among many of Plath’s devotees seems to be that if we can get clear of other people’s fingerprints on her texts, allowing Plath to ‘fully narrate her own autobiography,’ as the editors here describe it, we will at last solve the riddle of her. The extremities of her poetry will balance against the circumstances of her life; the latter will equal the former. But her griefs were ordinary; it is what she did with them that wasn’t. Plath turned her common sorrows—dead father, mental illness, cheating husband—into something like an origin story for pain itself, as if her own pain preceded the world.” In the New Yorker
A lot of women feel a connection to Cheryl Strayed, but one reader's connection was personal. Strayed's lost half-sister found her when she just happened to check out Wild because she liked travel narratives. "She didn't know anything about me except when she read the description in my book of my early life, my mother and my father, she knew that father was hers, too. I don't name my father in the book but she recognized him," Strayed told NPR.
Out this week: Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn; Another Great Day at Sea by Year in Reading alum Geoff Dyer; Funny Once by Antonya Nelson; Black Lake by Johanna Lane; Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell; Decompression by the German writer Juli Zeh; and J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf, published now for the first time. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2014 Book Preview.
At the LARB, Millions contributor Nathan Deuel reviews Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball, which we covered as part of our Great 2014 Book Preview. Nathan calls the novel “daring and odd” and notes that, as the plot advances, “even we readers become slightly shaky witnesses.” You can learn more about Jesse Ball’s work in our own Janet Potter’s review of his novel The Curfew.
"'Moby Dick is one of my favorite books, but let's face it — it's a hot mess,' says Evison. 'If I had software that said, 'Look, maybe this four-page essay on scrimshaw isn't gonna fly with your 28 to 40 male [demographic],' what would we have lost with that? Sometimes, you know, it's just got to be a little bit of a dictatorship.'" When e-readers and marketing tactics collide.
For the first time in the history of The Morning News' Tournament of Books, the longlist of all the titles under consideration has been published. From these titles, 16 will emerge for the literary throwdown in March.