At The New York Times, author Yoko Ogawa reflects on the literature published following the atomic bombings in Japan during World War II, including Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain, Kenzaburo Oe’s Hiroshima Notes, and Tamiki Hara’s Summer Flowers. “We appeal to the power of literature, a refuge we turn to when forced to confront contradictions that lie beyond reason or theory,” she writes. “Through the language of literature, we can finally come to empathize with the suffering of nameless and unknown others. Or, at very least, we can force ourselves to stare without flinching at the stupidity of those who have committed unforgivable errors and ask ourselves whether the shadow of this same folly lurks within us as well.”
The Times is reporting that a new film and companion book (Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno) “include detailed assertions that Mr. Salinger instructed his estate to publish at least five additional books — some of them entirely new, some extending past work — in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.” One of the books is said to include a retooled version of Salinger’s unpublished (but available at the Princeton library) story “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.” Kristopher Jansma (The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards) wrote about the story for us in 2011. Bonus Link: Garth Risk Hallberg on Salinger’s legacy.
Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker comments on why we still write to win prizes (and hails Mario Vargas Llosa for having “a lively personal life that includes once punching out another future laureate…Gabriel García Márquez, reportedly over something to do with Mrs. Vargas Llosa. The Nobel thus not only crowns a career but provides the basis for a fine future Javier Bardem/Antonio Banderas movie.”)
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.