At the Paris Review, Adrienne Raphel looks back at Beverly Cleary’s beloved Ramona Quimby series, and notes that the books are riddled with odd discrepancies that are both puzzling and charming. “Ramona taught us how to look for the weirdness in the everyday,” Raphel writes, “and the everyday in the scariest moments. When she wears a particularly gruesome witch costume in Ramona the Pest (the baddest witch in the world!,’ she declares), she begins the day delighted with her anonymity, but ends terrified by the greatest fear of all: no one will know who she is. So, she carries a huge poster with her name on it, presumably beaming under the warty disguise. The mask itself isn’t scary—disappearing, anonymity, being forgotten is what’s most frightening of all.”
Even as much of the Eastern U.S. is lashed by a massive storm, we have new books this week, skewing mostly to non-fiction, including Kurt Vonnegut’s collected letters, Richard Russo’s memoir Elsewhere, James Wood’s collection of essays The Fun Stuff, and Peter Carlin’s authorized biography of Bruce Springsteen. On the fiction side is Emma Donoghue’s Astray.
At The Washington Post, Michael Dirda on the dissolute genius Thomas De Quincey (opium addict, original chronicler of addiction, master of the macabre, prolific C19th essayist).
Bostonians, check out this new collaboration between the city and Mass Poetry. They’ve been covering the city’s sidewalks in poetry that you can only see when it rains. If you’re visiting the city, stop at the Old Corner Bookstore for lunch, which is now a Chipotle.