Over at The New York Times, Dwight Garner remembers the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch on the centennial of her birth. With many of her books no longer in print, Murdoch’s posthumous reputation leaves much to be desired, and her ardent fans seek to rectify this. “She was the rare kind of great, buoyant, confident writer who could drive the whole machine,” Garner writes. “She was as in touch with animal instincts as intellectual ones. The scope of her vision makes you feel, when you are close to her fiction, that you have glimpsed the sublime—that you have swum very near to a whale.”
In the spring of 2006, John Unsworth taught a graduate seminar on “Twentieth-Century American Bestsellers.” It led to one of history’s finest class projects–a browsable database of bestsellers, 337 in all. As with any bestseller lists, you’ll find a range of titles, everything from Thomas Wolfe to Tom Clancy, but click through and find that each entry includes an extremely detailed description of the book’s history (these were compiled by graduate students, after all); a mini-essay on its reception; images of covers, page layouts, and even some ads; and more. It is, in short, bibliophilic crack. (Thanks Craig)
At a loss for what to read? Goldman Sachs has released their reading list. “We’re talking about people who incurred $550 million in fines for schemes to turn a profit on the civilization-threatening financial crisis they themselves had helped create, and the line between genius and chutzpah is notoriously hard to draw, so, yeah, I’d like to know what’s on these folks’ bedside tables.” Our own Hannah Gersen wrote about Occupy Wall Street and Bartleby, the Scrivener.
“James Schiff, an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a volume of Updike’s letters and has unearthed thousands of letters, postcards, and notes the author sent to complete strangers who wrote to him.” The Guardian writes about an in-progress book of John Updike‘s letters that reveals how often the writer corresponded with not only his contemporaries, like John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates, but his readers as well. See also: an essay about the personal and literary relationship between Barth and Updike.
Recommended Reading: Nathaniel Rich discusses Stephen Wright’s Meditations in Green, which he says is remarkable because “it convinces you that the war never ended.” Indeed, Rich writes, the author’s debut novel “suggests that Vietnam at some point transcended the Indochina peninsula and became a mental condition, a state of being not unlike certain forms of insanity, that has become encrypted in our genetic code.”