“The power and meaning of the written word are central to the complexities we face today—both as a nation, and globally. To my mind, freedom of expression is a basic human right.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan has been named the new president of PEN America. Pair with: our own Edan Lepucki‘s 2010 profile of Egan.
The Library of America celebrates the publication of Sherwood Anderson: Collected Stories by posting audio recordings of nine famous writers reading ten of Anderson’s famous works. Hop on over to hear readings by Charles Baxter, Siri Hustvedt, Ben Marcus, Rick Moody, and Patricia Hempl.
“[L]overs of more experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives but it was comedy fans who scored the highest for relating to others.” A new study suggests that people who read books are nicer, reports The Independent. In our recent interview with author John Vaillant he wholly agreed. “Empathy is what gives you the access,” he told us. “I see the writer (fiction or nonfiction) as a kind of permeable membrane through which the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others can pass and manifest.”
The New York Times recently ran an in depth look at the process of learning to deal in rare books. Which made me think of The Monkey’s Paw, a rare book store so good that twice now I’ve personally heard rare book dealers (at both Sellers and Newel and Paper Books) describe, with admiration and a dash of collegial envy, as everyone’s favorite book store.
“To get me through a 550-page collection, the stories must be very good indeed. These are.” When Lionel Shriver participated in our Year in Reading ritual several years back, she dedicated her reading diary to William Trevor, who just passed away. “Trevor’s writing is so perfect that you don’t even notice it’s perfect,” she wrote. “He mainlines pure narrative directly into your veins. The words never get in the way; the words, like their author, disappear.”
Patti Smith’s M Train was released this Tuesday. Geoffrey O’Brien reviews her memoir at The New York Review of Books: “Perhaps M Train represents the attempt by someone whose career is as public as can be imagined to stake out a zone of inviolable privacy, albeit through the public act of writing a book meant for publication.” Need more music? Check out our Torch Ballads and Jukebox Music column.