This holiday season may set a record for gift returns, and perhaps that's understandable given the economy. But what does it mean if you simply abandon your things instead? A recent survey by Virgin Atlantic reveals which books are most frequently left behind by their passengers, and it raises that very question.
Mark Binelli is the author of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He lives in New York and is currently working on a second novel.I didn't read so many new books this year, but three I loved were Horacio Castellanos Moya's Senselessness (probably my favorite final sentence of the year), Joseph O'Neill's Netherland (expected to hate it but all of the effusive praise totally deserved) and Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker (deranged, Terkel-esque Q&A's with the bottom rungs of Chinese society.)New (to me), and highly recommendable: Geoff Dyer's self-described "method biography" of D.H. Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage, which I loved despite having never read any Lawrence aside from a couple of short stories; James Merrill's Divine Comedies, specifically the long poem "The Book of Ephraim," which JM claimed to have written with the use of a ouija board (!); Lydia Davis' great first collection, Break It Down; and William Gass' Omensetter's Luck, a perfect novel, and the best thing I've read in a very long time.More from A Year in Reading 2008
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“Even weeks after its publication, no one agrees on What Happened and Clinton’s ability to assess her own past. But in post-truth America, the truth that becomes history may well be decided by star-rating.” The Guardian considers how Amazon reviews became the new battlefield of US politics. Namechecked in the piece: Nancy MacLean, whom we interviewed about her new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, here.
Over at Aeon, Alana Massey writes about memory and how the internet archives personal data. In her own words, “Because the archiving technology captures only snapshots of a site at a given time, results might not be an exact replica of the site as it was. As I learned from the fragments of our site, things such as embedded media might be missing and scripts are unlikely to work. After all, a toy boat is hardly its former self after a lifetime at the bottom of the sea. No matter how intact an archive, it can never fully reconstruct the texture and completeness of the original memory.”
Looking up a book title on Google? The search results now include listings at your local library, reports The Digital Reader. See also our own Jacob Lambert's entreaty, "An Open Letter to the Person Who Wiped Boogers on My Library Book."
If you're bored with the typical sexy firefighter holiday calendar, the Rhode Island Library Association can help. The Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State 2014 calendar features Rhode Island librarians and their ink. "We're trying to give a voice to the up-and-coming generation of librarians. We're not your grandmother's library," librarian and association president Jenifer Bond said. You can buy your calendar at the site for $12-15.
Eli Gottlieb's The Boy Who Went Away won the prestigious Rome Prize and the 1998 McKitterick Prize from the British Society of Authors. It also received extraordinary notices and was a New York Times Notable book. Eli Gottlieb's latest novel, Now You See Him, will be published on January 22, 2008. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.Once every few years, usually when I'm beginning a new book, I reread one or two of Saul Bellow's novels to prime the pump. This year it was Humboldt's Gift, the last great work in the high Belovian style. It's a book which has always spoken to my "inner prompter" to use Bellow's own phrase for the mysterious faculty within us that allows us, as writers, to "speak". The novel, appropriately enough, was dictated and then transcribed, a process which accounts for the rather jaunty sprawl of its construction. It's a big, loose, episodic thing, guyed entirely by the high-wire act of its prose, which has the innovation - surely that of a late style - of running adjectives together in way that leaves a painterly blur in the reader's mind. So Lake Michigan has "limp silk fresh lilac drowning water," and a woman is "roused, florid, fragrant, large".The book is based on Bellow's close friendship with Delmore Schwartz, the fizzled literary comet of the 1940s, who wrote a perfect book of poems at age 24, lost his mind not long thereafter, and eventually died in a Times Square flophouse hotel, convinced that his wife had left him for Nelson Rockefeller. Schwartz's longtime shrink was a friend of our family, and I once found myself sitting in the home of the shrink's widow, looking at the written results of Schwartz's Rohrschach tests. They stated he was manic depressive, implied a repressed homosexuality, adverted to a probable alcohol problem, and concluded with a chilling definition of the poetic temperament. "It is probable," read the diagnosis, "that the mania has infected his higher reason." Ouch.More from A Year in Reading 2007