For The New Yorker, Jill Lepore brings a critical eye to the memoirs of 2020’s Democratic presidential candidates, comparing the lyricism and romance of Pete Buttigieg’s Shortest Way Home to the force and anger of Elizabeth Warren’s This Fight Is Our Fight to the less inspired liberal-cum-Republican coming-of-age narrative in Ronald Reagan’s Where’s the Rest of Me? “Most of the books,” Lepore notes, “are not great books, and some of these people just don’t seem like good people. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make good Presidents, I guess, but it raises a question: Why do they write this stuff?” What are political autobiographies really for?
“One of the joys of literature is that we can always push back against established ways of speaking and seeing—and nothing has to be blown up.” Mark Z. Danielewski, whose latest novel, the first installment of a 27-book series called The Familiar, has just been released, writes for The Atlantic‘s “By Heart” series about “signiconic” writing, the orneriness of his work and the graphic novel Here. Pair with our 2012 interview with Danielewski.
The political unrest in Moscow is significant and worth covering, but it’s important to verify the facts. Over the weekend, a picture of an enormous crowd went viral, and it was billed as an image of anti-Putin demonstrations. This is not true. The image is actually from a 1991 rally in which protesters called for Mikhail Gorbachev’s resignation. It even appears in this Atlantic article from December, 2011.
A new anthology out from Da Capo Press, Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, includes an essay by David Foster Wallace’s widow, Karen Green, on how books helped her cope with his death: “I’ll try not to use the word survive. I think I’ve determined, by trial and error, that certain underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared books, in conjunction with pharmaceuticals, are beneficial after a trauma. What was it the realtor called it? ‘The Incident.’ Books can be helpful after an Incident.” (Thanks, Diavanna)
In conversation with New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, Swing Time author Zadie Smith explained why she doesn’t engage in social media: “I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it,” according to the the Huffington Post. Read Sarah Labrie‘s essay on social media anxiety from our archives.
If you haven’t been following The Morning News Tournament of Books, now is the time to catch up. There’s been ample drama and the always insightful commentary from the booth. The finalists are set – Wolf Hall and The Lacuna – and the champion will be revealed on Monday.