When It Becomes Clear What It Is That They Will Be Doing, I Will Be Very Interested in Their Doings: On The Best of McSweeney’s
by Jonathan Russell Clark
The Best of McSweeney’s is a triumph, not only as a stand-alone book, but also (and especially) as a testament to the power of the short story, the essay, the experiment. A tribute, too, to the power of one person’s vision, proof that writers can influence the world outside the borders of their prose.0
by Stefanie Peters
The history of women interacting with Shakespeare’s plays is also the history of women’s rights, suffrage, and of the feminist movement. Shakespeare has been, and is, an uneasy ally.0
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Keeping track of the art mentioned in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is almost as difficult as keeping track of Boris. Fortunately, Laura Petelle made a Pinterest board of all the art in the novel, complete with excerpts. Start reading from the bottom up, and beware of spoilers.
Recommended Viewing: Year in Reading alumna Rachel Fershleiser’s TED talk “Why I heart the Bookternet” on building reading communities through the internet. “The more tools that we get for communication and collaboration, the more we’re taking reading and writing — these really solitary pursuits — and building communities around them for connection and conversation.”
If you’re eagerly anticipating the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, be prepared to wait until 2034. You can blame the internet for the delay, which has made research easier but also leads to information overload. There are so many new words that the dictionary would be 40 volumes if it ever makes it to print, but expect it to be only online instead. For more on the new OED, read a profile of new editor Michael Proffitt.
Recently, it seemed hard to find a book not blurbed by Gary Shteyngart. He did blurb 150 books in the past decade. Yet now the author has decided to mostly retire from blurbing, he announced in The New Yorker. “Literature can and will go on without my mass blurbing. Perhaps it may even improve.” Pair with: Our own Bill Morris’s essay on whether or not to blurb.
The New Yorker has published another recently discovered Shirley Jackson short story “The Man in the Woods,” a fairy tale that takes on some classic mythology. According to her son, it’s one of many new stories found in her archives, and we can expect a new collection next year. “What was surprising to us was not that she was so prolific and had left behind so much unseen work but, rather, the quality of that work,” Laurence Jackson Hyman said.
One of the more persnickety questions a writer has to deal with is how to capitalize the title of a piece correctly. Thankfully, there’s now a website that does it for you, based on the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style.
Is “literary” fiction just a product of clever marketing? Elizabeth Edmondson thinks it is. At The Guardian, she argues that classically literary authors like Jane Austen had no idea they were writing Literature — posterity classified their work as such later on. Her essay dovetails nicely with our own Edan Lepucki’s argument that literature is a genre.
“Well, continuing with my policy of baring my soul, Dwight Garner said something like, the book was like one of those satellite photos of North Korea when I talked about the second marriage. I obviously had very little access to Updike from ‘77 on, really. And I cheated a bit by using Ian McEwan as my spy in the Updike household. First of all, Updike definitely did pull up the drawbridge and retire into his castle and I thought, in a sense, that this should be respected. He had decided on his persona, at that point—the highly professional man of letters. And I thought, why not let him go out with that persona intact?” At The Awl, Elon Green talks with Adam Begley about his new biography of John Updike.
Leslie Jamison’s new essay collection is getting lots of plaudits, not least here at The Millions, where Ryan Teitman argued that Jamison manages to “meet her subjects in utter intimacy.” At the Tin House blog, Stephen Sparks interviews Jamison, who talks about the book, her “shame-seeking superpower” and her epigraph-cum-tattoo.
Getting sick of people who overuse the word “literally”? A new browser extension kindly replaces instances of the word with “figuratively.” At Slate, Will Oremus tries out a godsend for pedants. (A Millions piece by Fiona Maazel nicely complements his article.)
Francine Prose has a new novel out this week, while Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection on shelves. Also out: Chestnut Street by the late Maeve Binchy; In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman; Terms and Conditions by Robert Glancy; The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan; and new paperback editions of The Color Master by Aimee Bender and The Infatuations by Javier Marias.
On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
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Read More The Millions Top 10 March 2014
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
Selected Stories Alice Munro
The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner
The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
Draw it With Your Eyes Closed Paper Monument/n+1
The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose Alice Munro
The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri
Just Kids Patti Smith
Beautiful Ruins Jess Walter
The Circle Dave Eggers