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.”
Little, Brown & Company has pulled a mystery novel from the shelves after passages in the book were found to have been plagiarized from “a variety of classic and contemporary spy novels,” like James Bond novels and books by Robert Ludlum and Charles McCarry.
Tom Perotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers, talks about how he learned to write about ordinary life from Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. “The tragedy is that, while we’re alive, we don’t view our days in the knowledge that all things must pass. We don’t—we can’t—value our lives, our loved ones, with the urgent knowledge that they’ll one day be gone forever.”
Masha Gessen has been busy of late. Within months of publishing her investigative look at the charges for Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, Gessen has also co-edited a book entitled Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories. Over at The Independent, you can check out a review of the two projects, and over at Guernica, you can read an interview in which Gessen discusses both works.
Have some fun with this New York specific feature highlighted by Atlas Obscura. The New York Society Library is private member-based library and it has some pretty famous members, going all the way back to Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Due to the library’s excellent record keeping you can trace these famous members reading histories. “In the early 20th century, Library staff switched from big, blank ledger books to index cards for record keeping. Henceforth they archived cards only for “prominent” members, discarding the rest. The gap is major, but the surviving cards offer a lifetime of book recommendations.”
I’ve written before about Matthew Jockers‘s claim, as reported and presented by the Paris Review, that there are only about 6 plots in fiction. Now Dan Piepenbring returns to the Review to respond to critics who and attempt to answer the questions “is it really possible to assign every word a reliable emotional valence? And even if the answer is yes, can we really claim that all the plots in the history of literature take so few basic forms?”