Tom Wolfe, known as much for his personal as his narrative style, died on Monday of this week, reports The New York Times. An author of both critically and commercially acclaimed fiction — The Bonfire of the Vanities — and non-fiction — The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test — Wolfe was a mandarin of the New Journalism style that first became ascendant in the 1960s. Several of his books (including Vanities and The Right Stuff, about the early days of the U.S. space program) also became successful films. We reviewed Wolfe’s 16th book, The Kingdom of Speech, in 2016, as well as his 2012 novel Back to Blood, noting that in classic Wolfe-ian form, the latter “is obsessed with cultural abrasion, with the way different classes and races vie for power.”
What's the best book of the 21st century? To date, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao seems to be the favorite - the BBC polled a few dozen US critics and Junot Diaz's novel came in first place. The full list is available from The Guardian, and includes Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, both of which appeared alongside Oscar Wao in our own "Best of the Millennium" list a few years ago.
The U.S. Library of Congress has named its newest poet laureate, reports The New York Times. Tracy K. Smith says, “I’m very excited about the opportunity to take what I consider to be the good news of poetry to parts of the country where literary festivals don’t always go. Poetry is something that’s relevant to everyone’s life, whether they’re habitual readers of poetry or not.” Pair with our review of Smith's memoir Ordinary Light.
Recommended reading: Brandon Ambrosino interviews Justin Martin, author of Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America's First Bohemians, about, well, Walt Whitman and America's first bohemians.
WARNING: Do not visit the website for Michigan State's Celebrity Lecture Series unless you have a substantial amount of free time to kill. Before you even need to scroll down, you have access to audio from Edward Albee, Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, and Pat Conroy.