Few classic and contemporary author pairings seem as apt as Edith Wharton and Jia Tolentino. Thanks to Modern Library, the two are finally together in a new edition of The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s novel of manners set in New York’s high society. In her introduction, Tolentino paints the novel’s heroine, Undine Spragg, as an easily relatable figure for today’s readers: “For my money, no literary antiheroine can best Undine—a dazzling monster with rose-gold hair, creamy skin, and a gaping spiritual maw that could swallow New York City. People like her have been abundant in American culture for some time, but I never feel invested in their success; more often, I idly hope for their failure. With Undine, however—thanks to the alchemical mix of sympathy and disdain that animates Wharton’s language in the novel and allows her to match Undine’s savagery with plenty of her own—I find myself wanting her to get everything she desires.”
Riverhead Books makes an amusing pun in a new fundraiser in which individuals can purchase 3D heads of Riverhead authors — Marlon James, Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lauren Groff, Nick Hornby and more. Proceeds will go to the nonprofit Libraries Without Borders, which supports migrant and refugee populations in Europe by making books and learning materials accessible in multiple languages.
Recommended Reading: From The New Yorker, it’s Tessa Hadley on fiction as anthropology: “When I’m writing a story, its world is thin, unsatisfactory, untrue, until I start to find my way to those details, those ‘small cultural signifiers.’ As these accumulate on the page, the life in the piece thickens, the details breed, and the story begins to stir.”
Photographers who are tired of weddings should start shooting book covers. When New Directions asked to use one of Allen Frame’s photos for the cover of Robert Bolaño’s Last Evenings on Earth, he gave them access to his archive instead. Today, nine Frame photos have been used on Bolaño book covers. You can view them here or at New York City’s Gitterman Gallery.
According to Chris Richards at the Washington Post, the Ivy League rockers of Vampire Weekend are the unapologetic Bright Young Things of our recession era. Drinking Darjeeling on Daddy’s yacht never looked so good, he says, and their second album, Contra, out yesterday, sounds pretty good too.
When did romance novels get such a bad rep? They weren’t always derided as somehow lesser than other books. At Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth delves into the history of the modern romance novel, exploring how particular stereotypes latched on to the popular genre. You could also read Julia Fierro on sex and the literary writer.