“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.”
“What’s it like to write a novel in prison?” An interview with Daniel Genis addressing this and similar questions is online at The Airship. For more writing about and after prison, be sure to check out our own interview with Matthew Parker, author of Larceny in My Blood:A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education.
Anyone who’s read The Divine Comedy knows that rivalries and petty grudges are timeless. To further prove the point, Mallory Ortberg provided this list, which details the cattiest lines from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Sample quote: “Why do unskilled and ignorant souls disturb him who has skill and knowledge?”
Recommended Reading: Tyler Stoddard Smith’s satirical essay on the new literary movement “The Real Newism” at Hobart. “Did Virgil go to hell? No. Did Virginia Woolf go to Disney World? No, and it turns out that Orlando isn’t a place, but a dude. And did Truman Capote ever have breakfast at Tiffany’s? Yes, but the eggs Benedict was cold and the bloody marys were ‘bullshit.'”
A few weeks ago, I pointed you to this piece on the surprising racism of children’s books. The essay was a response to controversy surrounding the rescinded publication of Ramin Ganeshram’s A Birthday Cake for George Washington, which upset readers with its confusing, cheerful illustrations and alleged misrepresentation of the nature of slavery. Over at The Guardian Ganeshram defends herself and addresses the problem of cover design versus author intent.
Kevin Courier is re-running interviews he did for the CBC in the 1980s on the Critics At Large site. Here’s his 1986 interview with Barbara Brenden, author of The Passion of Ayn Rand. Brenden’s book, Courier writes, “not only unveiled this polarizing figure” of Ayn Rand, but it “also illustrated the perils of blind faith and idolatry.” Given the Objectivist’s influence on a certain vice presidential candidate, this one’s worth a read.