“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.)
“How earnest, ironic, condescending, moralistic and simply funny a Tolstoy should the translator inhabit? Perhaps the only way to render Tolstoy’s variable voice is to continue producing ever-varying translations.” Masha Gessen looks at the latest English translations of Anna Karenina and breaks down their nuances of word choice and accumulated meaning for The New York Times Book Review, and along the way she questions the novel’s most famous line: just how alike are happy families? How can we know?
“What is missing from Testimony is the customary idealistic hero, the one last encountered in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass who doesn’t avert his eyes from suffering and sordidness, but who nevertheless is full of hope for a better future. Testimony is a corrective, an anti-epic.” Charles Simić recounts Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative in the NYRB.
The 2010 National Book Awards were announced this evening. In fiction, Jaimy Gordon won for The Lord of Misrule; in nonfiction, Patti Smith won for Just Kids; in poetry, Terrance Hayes won for Lighthead; and for young people’s literature, Kathryn Erskine won for Mockingbird.
Matthew Salesses talks about moral fiction and how to address prejudice in writing at Electric Lit. A piece of his essay: “The writing of fiction cannot treat marginalized characters as vessels, cannot let the plot play out the racism of under-enlightened protagonists. Perhaps the ultimate conclusion is that one cannot write without prejudice unless one understands that one has prejudice.” Pair with his recent essay at The Millions on plot and the inciting incident.
Google took the wraps off its long-awaited ebookstore today. Google ebooks can be bought at Google Books and are also available at Powells and indie bookstore portal IndieBound (both of which are missing out on some serious publicity by not having info about this on their front page today). The ebooks are readable on a variety of platforms, but not on the Kindle (at least not without some tweaking).