Out this week: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; Listen to the Marriage by John Jay Osborn; A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson; Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know by Colm Tóibín; and Little by Edward Carey. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.
Adding to the general hand-wringing over the state of the humanities, Lee Siegel contradicts Leon Wieseltier’s lament that fewer college students are majoring in literature by contending that modern literature courses ruin the joy of reading. “For every college professor who made Shakespeare or Lawrence come alive for the lucky few,” he writes, “there were countless others who made the reading of literary masterpieces seem like two hours in the periodontist’s chair.” (You can also read a similar argument from a humanities professor in The New Republic.)
The Times has announced its long-awaited (and -feared) digital subscription plan: “Under the plan, which begins on March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month free. The most frequent users will pay $15 a month; print subscribers will have unlimited access.” A letter to readers about the plan from Publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.
It’s not online but “The Boy Who Had Never Seen The Sea” by newly named Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio appears in this week’s New Yorker. See our recent guest post about publishing Le Clézio.In last week’s New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell was back, this time talking about “genius.” His guinea pigs were Ben Fountain and Jonathan Safran Foer.The headline says it all: “Karl Marx’s book sells as Germany economy sinks.””The _______of________“The fall issue of The Quarterly Conversation has arrived.
“In a new biography, The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Laura Claridge argues that Blanche Knopf was actually the more important and influential of the two Knopfs. That’s a stretch, but her book is still a long-overdue acknowledgment of the pioneering role Blanche played at a time when women were nearly invisible in the business world.” Find out more about Blanche Knopf at The New Yorker. Edan Lepucki’s 2011-2012 list on why not to self-publish is still relevant.
Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
God’s terse first line in the Book of Genesis — “Let there be light” — was ready-made for the Twitter generation. If only the rest was as crisp, the British novelist Jeanette Winterson recalled thinking, as she began to reckon with that first book for a new theatrical project on the King James Bible. And then it hit her: Maybe God’s wisdom would crackle for a modern audience as Twitter posts of 140 words or less.