For The New Yorker, Naomi Fry reflects on celebrated children’s writer and illustrator Tomie dePaola, who died at the end of March. As the author of more than 270 works for children, dePaola leaves behind a sprawling legacy. “The universe of dePaola’s books is moral but not moralistic,” Fry writes. “There is disarray in it, and people are imperfect and can make mistakes, but there is goodness, too, and a larger sense that, since an omniscient narrator is often able to shepherd the books’ protagonists to safety, the same might perhaps prove true, by extension, for the lives of these books’ readers.”
n+1 provides a fascinating study of today’s divisive concept of cultural elitism: “Today, though, it’s the bearers of culture rather than the wielders of power who are taxed with elitism. If the term is applied to powerful people, this is strictly for cultural reasons, as the different reputations of the identically powerful Obama and Bush attest. No one would think to call a foul-mouthed four-star general an elitist, even though he commands an army, any more than the term would cover a private equity titan who hires Rod Stewart to serenade his 60th birthday party.”
In April’s Atlantic, Joseph O’Neill tries to separate Philip Roth from his perpetual themes of family, Newark, and Judaism, and from his many authorial personae. The task proves unmanageable, but the attempt sheds light on the man destined to become Roth’s greatest critic: Roth himself.
James Baldwin was more famous for being an essayist and novelist, but he was also a film critic. At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky argues that Baldwin should be considered one of the best film critics for The Devil Finds Work. “Baldwin shows that criticism is art, which means that it doesn’t need a purpose or a rationale other than truth, or beauty, or keeping faith, or doing whatever it is we think art is trying to do.” For more on Baldwin, read our essay on his epiphanies.
“We lived in the Midlands, and when I moved to Dublin for university Frank liked to call me up and talk to me about my late mother, whom he informed me was ‘no saint’.” Sally Rooney’s short story from the New Irish Writing issue of Granta is now available on the Literary Hub website.
For The Brooklyn Rail, John Ashbery answers some questions about writing in French, crushes on boys, and the presence of “it.” As he puts it, “I’m sort of notorious for my use of the pronoun ‘it’ without explaining what it means, which somehow never seemed a problem to me.”