If you find yourself rereading Virginia Woolf‘s Mrs. Dalloway while in lockdown, you’re not alone. For The New Yorker, Evan Kindley examines why the novel acts as a balm for anxious readers. “At a time when our most ordinary acts—shopping,” Kindley writes, “taking a walk—have come to seem momentous, a matter of life or death, Clarissa’s vision of everyday shopping as a high-stakes adventure resonates in a peculiar way. We are all Mrs. Dalloway now.”
Hat tip to Melville House’s Dustin Kurtz for sharing The Gates Notes with the world. Now you can read real book reviews written by America’s wealthiest man. That’s almost as good as reading real book reviews written by one of the world’s most powerful conservative fundraisers.
“[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one.” The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews.
The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton‘s memoir My Life:
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!
If you can’t sit through a 20-minute reading, this one’s for you. Even Dostoevsky hated literary readings. As his narrator puts it, “Generally I have observed that at a light, public literary reading, even the biggest genius cannot occupy the public with himself for more than 20 minutes with impunity.” Pair with this Millions essay on the lively and maybe lost art of the literary reading.
Year in Reading alum Susan Orlean’s next book will be entitled The Library Book. It will be “a love letter to an endangered institution, exploring their history, their people, their meaning and their future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world.” The book will focus in particular on the unsolved 1986 razing of the Los Angeles Central Library.
“That little book had such an impact. It changes the course of history. When you think about how sheer accident can change so much, it’s breathtaking.” A set of Luo-language books written by President Obama’s father are up for auction until today, reports The New York Times. Written for the East African Literature Bureau,“the series uses the character Otieno, the Wise Man to offer advice on farming, healthy eating habits and other topics.” Pair with our own Janet Potter on reading presidential biographies.