For the Guardian, Lulah Ellender reflects on her own (imagined) literary rivalries and looks at famous competitive pairs throughout history, including Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote, and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. “In classical stories of rivalry, revenge is enacted violently, often ending with a morally justified death. In the literary world things don’t usually get that far,” Ellender notes, “though Richard Ford shot a hole through one of Alice Hoffman’s books after she gave him a bad review, and Marcel Proust and Jean Lorrain had an actual duel.”
“Without any clear and agreed upon sense for what to be aiming at in a life, people may experience the paralyzing type of indecision depicted by T.S. Eliot in his famously vacillating character Prufrock; or they may feel, like the characters in a Samuel Beckett play, as though they are continuously waiting for something to become clear… or they may feel the kind of “stomach level sadness” that David Foster Wallace described…” Sean D. Kelly navigates past nihilism for the New York Times.
Elena Ferrante’s introduction to the Folio edition of Sense and Sensibility is available at The Guardian. She describes the experience of reading Jane Austen as a girl. “At the time, I was enthralled by the great male adventure novels, with their stories that ranged all over the world, and I wanted to write such books myself: I couldn’t resign myself to the idea that women’s novels were domestic tales of love and marriage. I was past 20 when I returned to Austen. And from that moment not only did I love everything she had written but I was passionate about her anonymity.”
Emily Smith discusses the place of zines in contemporary American politics, over at Ploughshares. As she puts it, “Zines, like street art, are allowed critical power through anonymity—a function newsstand periodicals simply can’t perform for the sake of reputation or the sacrifice of advertisers. In this way, zines are small-scale democracies.”
Out this week: City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan; Ladivine by Marie NDiaye; These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson; The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps; and Whosoever Has Let a Minotaur Enter Them by Emily Carr. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great 2016 Book Preview.