“By the time Mr. Bass bought the building for $8.2 million in 1997, the Strand had become the largest used-book store in the world.” Fred Bass, the owner of the Strand, has died at the age of 89. Bass — who bought used books with panicked fervor, opened up satellite kiosks, and created the fabled literary quiz for prospective employees — turned his father’s used bookstores into a New York City literary landmark.
The F.B.I. had a massive file on James Baldwin in the fifties and sixties. Among other things, their notes featured passages of surprisingly adept criticism, including an oddly in-depth look at sexuality in his work. You could also read Justin Campbell on race, fatherhood and Baldwin’s fiction.
"When I ask him why he likes something, it’s a perverse exercise less to gain new insight than to trick him into admitting to his personality." For Longreads, Dead Girls writer Alice Bolin tries to understand her father through the (sometimes misogynistic) mystery novels he reads and loves. (Read our own Janet Potter on Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy.)
The latest short by James W. Griffiths, We Were Wanderers On a Prehistoric Earth, is an "ode to the incredible flora and fauna of Malaysia." The film is accompanied by a passage from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and it's clear that the author's description of the Congo applies to Southeast Asia quite easily.
Even though James McBride (new National Book Award winner for The Good Lord Bird) is an accomplished jazz musician, he doesn't listen to any music while writing. "Because I’m a musician, listening to music is…it’s a bit like work for me," he told The Daily Beast for the "How I Write" series.
New this week: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders; Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson; The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky; All That's Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe; The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan; The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble; and Be My Wolff by Emma Richler. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
The Morning News continues its ongoing Reading Roulette series by sharing "A Light Head" by Olga Slavnikova. While the author is a contender for the 2013 Russian Booker Prize, TMN correspondent Elizabeth Kiem doesn't need to wait to award "best line" to this little ditty: “The Russian dilemma posed by Dostoyevsky—‘Shall I let the world go to hell or skip my tea?’—has been resolved in favor of the tea.”
Ad-driven e-books may be something we'll all have to deal with in the future. At the Melville House blog, Dustin Kurtz explains why ads that pop up while a person is reading might well be an inevitable development. (If you’re like me, your reaction to this is simple: ugh.)