“A few weeks ago, I texted my writing group, ‘All I really want is to be just famous enough to have my own celebrity book club.’ I was kind of kidding. But I kind of wasn’t. Because, like portion-packaged organic snacks delivered to your door, isn’t book club ownership one step closer to having it all?” Laura Briskman on the faux intimacy of celebrity book clubs, as more and more celebrities start their own post Oprah.
“Tracing the journey of a mediocre actor and Holocaust survivor ‘touched by some mysterious higher design’ as he forges and impersonates his way through the war and then back to the city of his birth, the story is part Samuel Beckett and part Isaac Bashevis Singer, with a sudden final bolt of O. Henry. It has the flavour of a morality tale, but what’s most fascinating to me is how difficult it is to derive a moral from it, or rather how easy it is to derive more than one and how openly they stand in conflict with each other.” Kevin Brockmeier extols the fiction of Leandro Sarmatz.
Over at the Literary Hub, Morgan Jerkins writes about the struggle to describe blackness. As she puts it, “My hope is to create imperfect, multitudinous black women who are more in tune with themselves than their audiences.” Pair with our own Michael Bourne’s list of books that “shed light on the history and evolution of racism in America.”
George Packer at Lapham’s Quarterly writes of meeting a young Burmese reader of Charles Dickens: “‘All of those characters are me,’ [he] explained. ‘Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can…I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.’” (via Book Bench)
The term “academic writing” is controversial, not least because it implies that academics have an odd and persnickety way of writing. In a blog post for The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman examines the genre, looking back on his time in grad school to argue that academic writing is a “fraught and mysterious thing.”