Ever since the Man Booker prize was opened up to American writers, there’s been a renewed debate about America’s contributions to the literary scene. Many people have wondered who past Bookers would have gone to had American authors been eligible. At The Guardian, a roundtable including Year in Reading alum Joshua Ferris, Curtis Sittenfeld, Edna O’Brien and Martin Amis pick American books they think would have won if they’d had the chance. You could also read Joanna Scutts on the history of the prize, or check out the most recent Booker shortlist.
“But upon learning that the unmarried 60-something Ms. Welty was a fan, the 50-something Macdonald — Ken Millar, to use his real name, as he does in these letters — dashed off a note of thanks. A reply followed within a week.” On a new book of letters between Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald. You could also read Jonathan Clarke on the letters of Willa Cather.
“Salinger’s Holden Caulfield made a distinction between writers you would like to call on the phone and those you wouldn’t care to talk to at all. Teju Cole belongs to the former group.” Year in Reading alum Aleksandar Hemon interviews Teju Cole. If you can’t get enough of Cole, we interviewed him, too.
By the twelfth and last page, I was in tears. “I Stand Here Ironing” is a story about a working mother, but to call it that — even to call it the best story ever written about a working mother — feels reductive. Work-life balance may now be the stuff of Atlantic cover stories and Lean In, but in 1961, exploring it in fiction was a downright radical act
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David Remnick's biography of President Obama, The Bridge is out. (The Times explained how Remnick finds time to run the New Yorker and write a 700-page biography of a sitting president.) Also new: Another chronicle of the collapse, The End of Wall Street by talented financial journalist Roger Lowenstein; Nobel laureate Jose Saramago's "blog book" The Notebook; another in the posthumously published oeuvre of Irène Némirovsky, Dimanche and Other Stories; the latest from A.L. Kennedy, What Becomes; and Tom Rachman's touted debut The Imperfectionists.
At the center of Martin Clark's comic legal thriller Plain Heathen Mischief is Joel King, a fallen preacher from Roanoke, Virginia, who got in a little too deep with a young female parishioner. After a stint in jail, and facing a broken marriage and a life gone to shambles, Joel is taken under the wing of Edmund Brooks, one of Joel's former flock, a mysterious man whose dealings we quickly learn are rarely on the level. "I work the sag," Edmund explains, "Sag's the sneaky tax and the holdback and the cushion and the reserve and the contingency and the 'ol thumb on the scale." It's a whole lot of other things, too, but we soon discover that for Edmund, "working the sag" is mostly insurance fraud. Joel relocates to his sister's in Missoula, Montana, but by then, vulnerable and destitute, he has already been roped into Edmund's schemes. Edmund's co-conspirator is a Las Vegas lawyer of the slickest sort, Sa'ad X. Sa'ad, a smooth-talking con-man. Mischief would have been mundane as a straight thriller, but there's a comic aspect to the book that keeps it entertaining. The three co-conspirators play tough, each in his own way, but to certain degree they're each doing little more than playing the part of gangster, and part of the fun of reading this book is seeing through their big talk. Eventually the schemes and scams pile on top of one another and things spiral out of control, and while he has written Joel as an, at times, infuriatingly delusional character, Clark does a great job of untangling the Mischief in the end.
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