“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”
German-born footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger might just be living inside the D.H. Lawrence story, “The Captain’s Doll”. Schweinsteiger (who, it is helpful to mention, is the captain of his team) is suing a Chinese toy manufacturer for producing a doll that bears too striking a resemblance to the Manchester United midfielder. Oh, and did we mention that the “figurine” is also wearing a Nazi medal?
“[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one.” The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews.
The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton‘s memoir My Life:
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!
Masha Gessen has been busy of late. Within months of publishing her investigative look at the charges for Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, Gessen has also co-edited a book entitled Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories. Over at The Independent, you can check out a review of the two projects, and over at Guernica, you can read an interview in which Gessen discusses both works.
“For example, I don’t feel that catharsis in a play necessarily takes place during the course of a play. Often it should take place afterward.” The Paris Review offers a manuscript page from playwright Edward Albee, who died this past weekend. See also: this amazing piece of lore behind the titling of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.