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by Charlie Jane Anders
By the time I got around to reading it, I was pretty sure there was no way it could live up to the hype.0
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At HTML Giant, Jimmy Chen plots famous writers on two axes: Genius to Mediocrity and Arrogance to Modesty. It may offend you (or leave you feeling satisfied) to know that Tom Wolfe is the plot’s most arrogant author.
Last semester, at UC Riverside, the novelist Susan Straight began the class “Mixed-Race Literature and the American Experience” with a simple question: “How many of you are often asked, What are you?” In an essay about the class, she relates what they learned, which includes the observation that hair is weirdly important in America. (Related: The Millions published an essay by Straight on Toni Morrison’s Sula.)
Following a recent essay on the value of ambivalence, our own Mark O’Connell explores the nature of confidence in this week’s New York Times Magazine. Perhaps not surprisingly, he writes that this year’s Web Summit convinced him that tech moguls are congenitally more confident than writers.
Whether or not you knew that Rose Williams, sister of Tennessee, inspired the character of Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, you’ll probably appreciate this Paris Review elegy, which goes through Rose’s short life and the effect it had on her brother.
Recommended Reading: Dan Kois on his favorite books of the year. On Alissa Nutting’s Tampa, he writes: “Tampa mixes deadpan social satire, lurid true-crime storytelling, and out-and-out porn into a poisonous stew.”
“Aspiring journalists tend to worship at the altar of Joan Didion,” writes Heather Havrilesky (who some of you may know as Polly) in the latest issue of Bookforum. The fact that so many writers look up to Didion as an example necessitates that the lit world find at least one offbeat alternative. In Havrilesky’s eyes, that alternative is obvious: the late Nora Ephron was the anti-Didion, she argues.
Sad that Breaking Bad is over? Bryan Cranston might have a new TV show on the way, and it was inspired by The Dangerous Book for Boys, he said in an interview for The New York Times “By the Book” series. While you wait, check out our article on what to read after you’ve finished watching Walter White’s saga.
Recommended Reading: The American Reader has some new John Ashbery poems. We love “Listening Tour.”
Even though James McBride (new National Book Award winner for The Good Lord Bird) is an accomplished jazz musician, he doesn’t listen to any music while writing. “Because I’m a musician, listening to music is…it’s a bit like work for me,” he told The Daily Beast for the “How I Write” series.
Remember when Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by a hyena? Wait, that’s not the folktale we know. Whether or not Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten depends on where you hear the famous folktale, but anthropologist Jamie Tehrani discovered the origins of the scarlet-hooded girl — Belgium.
There are a lot of reasons to start writing poetry, but McSweeney’s gives you a list on when to put the pen down. “You were witty that one time while drinking wine at book club” is not an excuse.
What would happen if you had a clock to countdown the exact number of days until you died? Our own Mark O’Connell discovers the paranoia of having the Days of Life app measure his mortality at The New Yorker. “Days of Life functions like a reductio ad absurdum of the logic of personal productivity. The pie chart becomes a special way of being afraid: an image of the self as a micro-economy of numbered days.” For a more uplifting version of O’Connell, check out his 2013 Year in Reading post.
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Read More The Millions Top 10 October 2013
Selected Stories Alice Munro
The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner
The Pioneer Detectives Konstantin Kakaes
Taipei Tao Lin
The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose Alice Munro
Fox 8 George Saunders
Bleeding Edge Thomas Pynchon
The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri