“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.”
And now, a little bit about a world you might be totally unfamiliar with; this piece from The Rumpus is a fascinating, in-depth look at identity politics and eating pork in the Chinese borderlands. Bonus: a complementary piece about what it’s like to be a Chinese-American writer living in china.
Out this week: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman; There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter; Bon Appétempt by Amelia Morris; The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah; The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson; The Marauders by Tom Cooper; We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler; A History of Loneliness by John Boyne; Holy Cow by The X-Files star David Duchovny; and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
“Writing is the lonely sport of sad sacks.” The Rumpus interviews Lauren Groff, who’s a bit of a Millions favorite. Here’s her Millions interview and here’s Arcadia as Janet Potter’s Staff Pick this past April. Also, here’s a #LitBeat of a Literary Death Match she competed in earlier this year, in LA.
Perhaps inspired by the news, first reported a few years ago, that mad scientists in the Indian army plan to weaponize superhot chilis, Lauren Collins ventures bravely into the world of extreme heat. As a warning to readers who fancy themselves tough, she quotes a doctor who makes clear that these peppers aren’t just hot — they’re lethal.